In May, ThinkProgress reported that Kentucky approved a $43 million tax break for Ark Encounter, a Bible-themed amusement park that religious organizations are building outside Williamstown. Now the state is giving the creationist project another kickback in the form of a 75 percent property tax discount over the next 30 years:
Mayor Rick Skinner said the offer is laid out in a memorandum of agreement that will be followed by a formal tax-increment financing deal with Petersburg-based Ark Encounters LLC in coming months.
The tax deal is in addition to almost $200,000 given to the company by Grant County’s economic development arm as an enticement to keep the project located there, along with 100 acres of reduced-price land.
And that’s not counting the state’s promise of $40 million worth of sales tax rebates and a possible $11 million in improvements to the interstate near the project that would be financed by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that “the array of state and local incentives worry some people, who aren’t sure they will pay off in the end.” That group includes local officials like City Council member and former Mayor Glenn Caldwell who worries that residents might “be burdened with additional costs because of this project.”
Proponents of the project, including Gov. Steve Beshear (D) say it will create up to 900 jobs and attract 1.6 million tourists in its first year. However, as TPM notes, “those numbers were based on a feasibility study, commissioned by Ark Encounters LLC, that state officials reportedly never actually saw.”
The multiple tax breaks for the amusement park come at a time when Kentucky families are struggling from eight rounds of state budget cuts over the past three years. That includes cuts to education at all levels, a pay freeze for all teachers and state workers, and reduced funding for Medicaid.
The state already has a Creationism Museum, and the complementary amusement park includes biblical exhibits like the Tower of Babel and a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark…complete with dinosaurs inside (which creationists believe co-existed with early man). It’s slated to open in the spring of 2014.