Eagles Club seeks help with unpaid taxes, penalties

Published 7:20 am Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Eagles Club members are looking to the county board to help resolve a debt exceeding $50,000.

Representatives of the Austin Eagles asked the Mower County Board of Commissioners for advice on options as the club deals with unpaid property taxes and penalties.

As of June 25, county records showed the Eagles owed $50,841.34 in property taxes $41,188 in taxes, $5,766.32 in penalties, $3,857.02 in interest and $30 in fees. However, Eagles member Craig Byram said it’s the nearly $10,000 in penalties and interest that are really hurting the club as the costs keep accumulating.

“We have restructured our business model in a way that we’re confident will allow us to keep current with taxes in the future,” Byram said. “But we have this immediate problem and that’s why we’re looking for any kind of breathing room we can find.”

Eagles member Doug Bathke said the club is currently retooling their business model with the hope of becoming a competitive business again. Club officials are also renegotiating loans and looking to take out loans to pay back the money. But, Bathke was asking if there was anything the county could do to delay or waive penalties.

“We’re not asking you to wave a magic wand and make it all go away. That’s not what we’re here for,” Bathke said. “We just want to know if we have any options with the county board that we can look into and progress from there.”

The board will look into options, but it’s unclear how much the board can do. According to Mower County Coordinator Craig Oscarson, the board can abate the interest and the penalties, but doing so could set a precedent for other properties with similar issues.

The county currently budgets interest and penalties as revenue, and loss of those funds would also affect the schools because penalty and interest is split with the school district.

Currently, the club has about $25,000 raised, and club officials are looking to member donations to continue to make up the difference, Byram said. The club will also raise the cost of dues, but that isn’t scheduled to take effect until the end of the year, Bathke said.

Eagles leaders mailed out a letter on April 16 highlighting the club’s financial difficulties, which are largely due to the inability to pay property taxes. The Eagles is paying about $28,000 each year in property taxes on the club’s new facility at 107 11th St. NE, the letter stated. In addition, the $28,000 in property taxes is a 300 percent increase in property taxes compared with the previous Eagles property.

The club moved because the old location was in the flood plain.

The Eagles could also do a confession of judgment through the auditor-treasurer’s office to set up a payment plan on the debt. Byram said officials have looked into that option, but the bank likely wouldn’t loan them money during that period.

While he hopes the club finds a way to resolve their difficulties, Commissioner Tim Gabrielson said he wished Eagles Club members had come to the board sooner.

“The Eagles Club has always been very supportive of not only Austin, but also the entire county,” said Gabrielson, who is an Eagles member. “I personally would hate to lose them.”

“I wish it wouldn’t have gone this far,” he added. “I wish somebody would have come to us much earlier. Maybe we could have given them some recommendations.”

The county’s finance committee will look over potential options and meet with club officials in the future.

“I think this is a very important issue,” said Commissioner David Hillier. “It’s definitely new ground.”