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August 9, 2013

Documents show how speedway has kept liquor license

ANDERSON, Ind. — A review of records filed with the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission provides insight into how Anderson Speedway has kept its liquor license the past several years despite owing Madison County thousands of dollars in property taxes.

Although Action Entertainment, the company that owns Anderson Speedway, made a $25,000 property tax payment after an emergency court hearing last month, it still owes Madison County more than $100,000 in back taxes.

As a result, the race track's permit to sell beer could be in jeopardy if that bill isn't paid by Oct. 21. That's when the permit is scheduled for renewal.

Alcoholic beverage permits in Indiana are renewed annually. One of the key questions on the renewal application is whether a permit holder's sales and property taxes for the past year, and taxes currently due, have been paid.

Speedway President Rick Dawson, answered "yes" to those questions in 2011 and 2012, documents show. In an application filed on July 22, Dawson left that question blank.

Another key document that must be filed annually is known as a Property Tax Clearance Schedule - Form No. 1. It must be signed by the county treasurer, and certifies that those taxes have been paid.

This is the document that County Treasurer Kelly Gaskill has refused to sign for Dawson until the back taxes are paid.

No clearance forms were filed in 2011, 2012. Those forms were filed in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and stamped by then-county treasurer Darlen Likens.

Gaskill questions why those certifications were filed when the speedway's property taxes were not current.

In an interview last week, Dawson said it's because a property tax repayment plan was in place, and that's how Likens said he should complete the application.

"We made an agreement, she signed the property tax clearance form, and I've just continued doing it," Dawson said. He said nothing illegal was done. "We had an agreement with the treasurer's office, and they didn't have a problem with it."

Likens' recollection of what occurred is somewhat different.

Likens was out of the office last week, but responding through a spokeswoman, Kris Lutz, Likens said she did reach a tax payment agreement with Dawson in 2010, but told him if the taxes were not paid before the next tax sale he would have to make a new payment agreement with the new treasurer, Gaskill.

"Regarding Form 1 (the clearance form), Darlene did not sign the form for Mr. Dawson and would not have, because Mr. Dawson had not, in fact, paid all prior year taxes," Lutz wrote in an email. "If he obtained an executed Form 1 from the treasurer's office, one of her deputies must have stamped her name to the form."

Melissa Coxey, attorney for the commission, said staff at the agency's Indianapolis office decide whether to issue renewals based on information provided by applicants, the Indiana Department of Revenue (in the case of sales taxes) and the county treasurer's offices.

Moreover, if Dawson did have an agreement with the treasurer, it's not "wholly unreasonable for him to think he was correct," to mark on the form that his taxes had been paid, Coxey said.

She added, however, that every two years the holders must appear before local alcohol beverage commissions, and that would be the appropriate place to talk about any extenuating circumstances that might exist concerning a permit renewal.

Dawson doesn't dispute that the speedway owes property taxes. He does contest the assessed value of the Speedway with Assessor Laarry Davis' office. The assessed value, paired with the property tax rate, dictates the amount of property taxes owed.

Dawson added that he's still waiting for a breakdown of taxes owed and penalties, and he hopes to have that information by week's end. Once that's done, the entire matter will be a "non-issue," he said, because he's arranged financing to pay the bill.

Gaskill placed the speedway on a list of properties to be sold at tax sale last month because of delinquent property taxes. Dawson requested an emergency hearing on July 19 to resolve some of the issues.

Judge Thomas Newman Jr., who heard the case, agreed to remove the speedway from the tax sale and accepted Dawson's offer to immediately pay $25,000 on the outstanding property tax bill, which totaled $125,236.32.

Like Stu Hirsch on Facebook and follow him @stuhirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.

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