Terms of Meadows tax settlement revealed

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The terms of a settlement of The Meadows Racetrack & Casino’s property tax assessment appeal, pending since 2009, call for Canon-McMillan School District to credit $2.9 million that the owners of the complex already have paid.


When contacted Monday by the Observer-Reporter, Washington County Commission Chairman Larry Maggi and North Strabane Township Manager Frank Siffrinn said they had not seen the final terms of the settlement.


The newspaper received a copy of the settlement from the school district after filing a request under the state’s Right-to-Know law.


If all taxing bodies agree on the terms, a nonjury trial scheduled for September would be averted, but this is not a given, with neither the township nor the county having given its approval.


The Meadows is the school district’s and county’s single largest tax assessment. In 2009, the then-owner appealed the $19.9 million tax assessment and sought an assessment of $10 million. The property is now owned by Cannery Casino Resorts.


School board members approved the settlement 6-2 at a meeting June 17, but did not immediately release details.


According to the terms of the settlement turned over to the Observer-Reporter Monday, the district would be required to remit an annual tax credit of $581,646 to the casino for the next five years.


The township, which has the smallest stake in the casino’s property taxes, would have to pay $310,830 to the casino within 60 days.


Siffrinn said he saw a rough draft of the settlement last week, and he took issue with the inclusion of a payment plan for the school district, but not the township. The township, unlike the school district, would have to pay a lump sum, as opposed to a tax credit over a period of time.


“My comment to (township Solicitor James Jeffries) was, ‘What distinguishes the school district from the county and the township? Why wouldn’t all entities get the same consideration? It’s all relative,” he said. “ It’s still a large sum of money for all three entities.”


Siffrinn said he was under the impression that the terms of the settlement were still open for negotiation, and he would not recommend that the township approve the current terms that the school district endorsed.


Under the proposed settlement, the county would be required to pay a lump sum of $680,940 to the casino within 60 days. Neither the county nor township has signed the settlement, which states, “Given the significant public expense and uncertainty involved in continued litigation … the parties believed that it was in the best interest of everyone involved to reach an amicable agreement to resolve the appeal.”


The Meadows had been paying taxes under its original assessment while the appeal was pending, excluding the four-level parking garage and 10,000-square-foot storage building on the property, which were covered by a separate appeal. The settlement calls for the adjusted base-year market value for the property to be set at $12.7 million for tax years 2010 through 2013.


Beginning in 2014, the total assessed value of the Meadows property, including the garage and storage building, would be $14.2 million until the next countywide reassessment. The settlement states that all parties agreed they would not challenge those values.


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