Ark Encounter is a for-profit enterprise once again.
Last week, we learned that Ken Ham and his team had sold the for-profit attraction to a non-profit entity they also owned, presumably to get out of paying a “safety fee” to the city of Williamstown. The cost of transfer was a mere $10, but the move triggered state officials to suspend the tourism-related tax rebate worth more than $18 million over the next decade.
Maybe Ham realized his math error. Paying the 50-cent-per-ticket safety fee was going to be a lot cheaper — not to mention helpful to the entire community — than missing out on the millions of dollars in potential rebates over the years.
Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald-Leader now reports that Ark Encounter has sold itself back to… itself. For $10. (Again.) But the move now makes it eligible once again for the tax rebate, even if it means Williamstown can once again ask Ark Encounter to pay a safety fee.
… on July 18, state tourism officials said the land sale breached the sales tax rebate incentive agreement, which was with [for-profit] Ark Encounter LLC, not [non-profit] Crosswater Canyon.
On July 21, the parcel was switched back to Ark Encounter LLC, again for $10. The assessment still lists the property as being worth $18 million.
On Monday, Mark Looy, the co-founder of Answers in Genesis, the parent body of both Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum in Petersburg, said the group needed “to keep our options open to protect the organization for the future,” but did not explicitly explain the two property transfers.
Based on the letter from the state, Ham will probably not have to reapply for the tax rebate. They had 30 days from the letter’s postmark to undo the damage before the incentive went away for good.
Just to summarize (because this is just entertaining at this point):
Ken Ham sold his for-profit boat to a non-profit company he owned for $10 to avoid a safety fee that was probably worth about $700,000 a year. By doing so, he lost a tax rebate worth $18 million over 10 years. So he sold the non-profit boat back to his for-profit company for another $10.
The Creationists have not said anything to explain why they’re transferring ownership from one company to another. We’re all speculating here (with good reason, I’d add), but they refuse to comment on their own shady business practices.
When all is said and done, Ham will be right back to where he started. Except he created all sorts of chaos for his own management team, officials in Williamstown, and state leaders… and he’ll be down $20.
If I wanted to waste that much money and get nothing in return… well, I’m tempted to say I’d buy a ticket to Ark Encounter, but I’d still need another $20, plus tax, and some aspirin.
(Thanks to Dan for the link)