December 12, 2019

SAD 24 financial problems age as solutions are sought> District heads toward new fiscal year with books in the red

VAN BUREN — Money woes plague SAD 24, as they do many school districts in Maine. But some of the district’s money problems are up to 6 years old.

Another aspect in which SAD 24 differs from most school districts is that its next fiscal year will start in the red. The fund balance expected as of June 30, 1996, is listed at negative $55,452. The deficit could even be as much as $75,000 by the time the end of the year rolls around on June 30.

The district is looking at a 1996-97 budget of $3,421,138, about $46,272 less than this year.

Locally, taxpayers are looking at a half-mill increase in property taxes for the education budget. The local share for 1996-97 will be $881,349, compared with $851,874 this year.

Charles Anderson, an accountant-bookkeeper contracted to do the district’s books, is optimistic that the deficit can be taken care of during the coming year.

“We have to say no to capital projects until next year,” he said Wednesday when asked about roof and athletic field projects. He said the budget was a “compromise position … to take care of part of the deficit, yet keep taxes down.”

Anderson said the budget was set up “so SAD 24 won’t have a deficit at the end of the next [fiscal] year.”

There was also discussion involving former SAD 24 bookkeeper Robert Corbin on Wednesday, although Corbin was never mentioned by name during the public session.

Corbin had been bookkeeper in SAD 24 for about eight years until he resigned Feb. 28. He had been placed on administrative leave by directors during a bookkeeping investigation. Angered over the allegations, Corbin resigned and has denied allegations of financial irregularities and problems with the IRS.

The Attorney General’s Office also has been asked to look into SAD 24’s financial problems. Commissioner of Education Wayne Mowatt, who has resigned his state position effective July 1, was superintendent of schools in SAD 24 during the years when the alleged financial irregularities were taking place.

Anderson also said the district has other liabilities, including one with the Internal Revenue Service. He said a ballpark estimate of what SAD 24 could owe the IRS for taxes, penalties and interest “would be under $50,000, hopefully.”

He said the IRS problems date back to 1991. He said problems range from missing W-2 forms to figures that don’t match. He said quarterly reports are off, payroll registers have been changed, and “we may even have retirement account problems.”

“We have been meeting with the IRS,” said Anderson. He hopes the IRS problems can be rectified by the end of this calendar year. The IRS settlement, he said, could be an issue for a special budget meeting after a settlement is reached.

The IRS problems, said Superintendent Clayton Belanger, are for the years 1991 through 1995. He said IRS records for the entire period are spotty.

Belanger said the past year has been hard on SAD 24, and “next year will be a really tough year.”

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