Agreement puts Findlay hotel property on tax rolls

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Under a proposed $5.5 million deal, the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay is positioned to make property tax payments for the first time in 13 years.

The 10-year plan calls for the hotel owner paying a $750,000 lump sum for back taxes and making annual tax payments of $475,000 to be split among the West Allegheny School District, Findlay and Allegheny County.

The tax arrangement was spurred by the planned sale of the hotel to a private company from the quasi-governmental Dauphin County General Authority.

School board members voted 7-0 -- with two members absent -- on Oct. 16 to approve the agreement. Findlay supervisors are scheduled to vote tonight. County council also must approve the pact.

The school district, which covers Findlay, North Fayette and Oakdale, expects to receive the most revenue -- $558,900 in back taxes plus $353,970 a year.

"The district worked very hard to negotiate the best deal that it could," West Allegheny superintendent John DiSanti said. "Given that over the last several years we have received nothing, to get this on the tax rolls is certainly going to help."

Under the agreement, Findlay's share is $48,300 in back taxes and $30,590 a year in tax payments going forward. The county's share is $142,800 in back taxes plus $90,440 a year.

The shares are based on real estate millage rates -- West Allegheny, 18.51 mills; Findlay, 1.60 mills; and Allegheny County, 4.73 mills.

The school district and township each will receive half of the more than $400,000 in proceeds from a 1 percent realty transfer tax that will be charged when the hotel is sold, Findlay manager Gary Klingman said.

The 336-room hotel is under agreement to be sold to MHF Properties IV LLC, an affiliate of Magna Hospitality Group of Warwick, R.I. The company agreed to buy the hotel for $44.5 million from the Dauphin authority, under whose ownership the building is tax exempt.

The hotel opened in 2000 on county-owned airport land. In 1999, the authority agreed to pay up to $767,040 a year in lieu of taxes, but never paid a penny of it to the school district, township or county.

Mr. Klingman said the private ownership "changes the dynamics of this whole thing, to the benefit of the taxing bodies."

The new owner's annual payment is fixed for 10 years, starting in 2014, regardless of any other county-certified assessments, Mr. Klingman said.

"This agreement basically commits to a tax payment," he said. "It's a definite win."

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer:

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