CHATHAM – Mayor Tom Curran addressed residents at the Village Board meeting last week about the failure of the village to pay employees’ withheld payroll taxes to the state since 2015, which amounted to more than $47,000.
The statement the mayor read at the December 13 meeting said, “The state Taxation Department visited the village because payroll forms were not filed from the 4th quarter of 2015 through the 2nd quarter of 2018. Since then, the current [village] treasurer has paper filed all forms outstanding and submitted a check for $47,561.90 to New York State for withholdings.”
The statement went on to say that the outstanding amount “is not an expenditure of the village, but an accumulation of taxes withheld on behalf of employees that should have been remitted to NYS Taxation over the abovementioned period. This will bring the village up-to-date in NYS payroll taxes.”
The village may still have to pay as much as $25,000 in penalties and interest “but the current treasurer has started the process of asking State Taxation to waive the penalty portion of the remaining liability. It is unknown at this time if this will be abated,” the mayor said.
According to the mayor’s statement, “When payroll was done in-house (2015-2018) the payroll tax withholdings were accumulated through employee withholdings and never submitted to the taxing authority. The Comptroller and State Taxation [are] currently reviewing records for this time period.”
The village now uses an outside company to handle payroll.
The Village Board discovered last summer that the village had a similar issue with payroll taxes owed to the federal Internal Revenue Service in the amount of $52,104.07 for the same time period. And, as with the state, the village now faces federal penalties.
In his statement at the December meeting the mayor said, “To date, the IRS has waived $11,930 in penalties that the current treasurer requested in a letter in June 2018. There is an outstanding $18,000 in penalties that is under review for abatement by the IRS.”
Mayor Curran said that if penalties are not waived, “we’ll have to absorb them.”
He stressed at the December meeting, as he did over the summer about the IRS payments, that the village has now put in place new accounting systems.
Village resident John Howe asked who was responsible for paying the payroll taxes. The mayor said he thought it was the village treasurer. The current village treasurer is Robert Patterson, who previously was the village accountant.
In March 2018 the board passed a motion to terminate the contract for accounting services with Sickler, Torchia, Allen & Churchill and hire Mr. Patterson as the village accountant effective immediately. In August 2018, after Village Treasurer Barbara Henry resigned, the board hired Mr. Patterson to be treasurer.
As residents questioned how such a large amount of money could have been overlooked for so many years by the accounting firm the Village Board hired, Trustee Lenore Packet said, “This process has to be taken care of by the professionals.” She stressed board members are sharing what they know now, but she said that none of them are accountants. Ms. Packet, Mayor Curran and newly appointed Trustee Pete Minahan were at the meeting. Trustees Jay Rippel and Mike Wollowitz were absent.
Mayor Curran said the board would keep residents informed as they get more information, saying that the board would continue to put information online and in the quarterly newsletter mailed with residents’ water and sewer bills. “And you can always stop by,” he said of getting information from the clerk’s office.
Starting next month, Village Board meetings will be held the second Monday of the month so that Village Attorney Ken Dow can attend. Mr. Dow has a conflict on Thursdays.
Also at the meeting:
• The board approved three requests for relief from sewer bills from residents who said water leaks caused their water and sewer bills to go up. Since the water from the leaks did not go into the village sewer system, the property owner can ask for a refund on the sewer bill. The amounts ranged from about $70 to $490. The mayor said people may have been noticing their bills more since water and sewer rates have increased.
Phil Genovese from the village DPW said that he and his crew had been helping residents who felt their bills were high by looking for leaks, running toilets and ways to conserve water. “Our guys are willing to help,” said the mayor of water and sewer line issues on residents’ property
• In his fire report, Second Assistant Chief Eric Barnes said that calls are up 43% from last year. He said that all calls including requests for the Fire Department to assist in other municipalities are up. “Forty-three percent is a significant increase,” he told the board
• In his report, Police Chief Peter Volkmann said he would be attending a press conference in Sullivan County, which is starting a countywide program based on Chatham Cares 4U (CC4U). The CC4U program allows people looking for help to find treatment for addiction to come to the Chatham Police Department, where the officers will find a treatment bed for the person and transport them there. The rates for the CC4U program have gone down recently, Chief Volkmann said, because there are now more organizations in the county helping people find treatment. He told the board that the program has helped a total of 209 people as of December 1
• Village Clerk Debra Meyers read aloud two letters from local residents asking for help from the village with shoveling their sidewalks. Last year the village imposed fines on residents who did not clear their sidewalks within 24 hours after a snowfall. But the board rescinded the fines following complaints from residents. The board did not comment last week on whether the village would assist property owners asking for help this winter.
The next meeting will be Monday, January 14 at 7 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial/Village Hall.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email