At the November 10 Durbin Town Council meeting, councilmembers were disillu- sioned as they reviewed the financial statement and past due bill list. Council has struggled for months to get the financial statement back on track but is still working out the kinks.
Councilmember Mark Smith had several questions concerning the sewer budget which is used to maintain the town lagoon and expenses related to the lagoon. He also questioned items in the general fund which were not budgeted for the fiscal year.
“There’s also, in the general fund, a bill for CSX that we pay them $120 every two years for the pipeline access over to the lagoon,” Smith said. “Whenever we did the budget, that was never brought up, so there’s a lot of bills that are coming due that back in March, whenever I was first facing this budget, these bills weren’t brought to light.
“I don’t know how in the world you can ever plan or do anything whenever this stuff is so mixed up, messed up and everything else,” he continued. “There’s no information provided to us. There was nothing in it that I can remember for this CSX right-of-way. That’s just an example of the information that’s not being brought out here.”
Treasurer Donald Peck said he thought the CSX bill was taken out of the sewer fund, which does not have an annual budget.
Later in the meeting, as council was discussing past due bills, Smith again raised questions. He asked for the matter to be tabled because Peck left the meeting early and was not available to explain the past due bill statement.
“Somehow, that math doesn’t add up,” he said. “I say we table this until the end of the month meeting. Ask the treasurer to be here to explain himself. I find it very odd that when there are this many discrepancies in this statement and this many discrepancies in the financials that this would be the time he’s not here.”
Also in regard to the financial statement and the town’s budget, Smith said the legislature recently passed a bill, Senate Bill 234 which goes into effect June 12. It requires that all public service districts and municipalities put one-eighth of its working budget into a reserve fund for rainy days.
“Whenever your pumps go down, you have a nest egg to draw from to be able to pay for it,” Smith explained. “It’s supposed to be one-eighth of your operating budget. I think we have two years to build that fund, so if you spend one thousand dollars a month on your utility that means that you need one-eighth of that in a separate fund or separate account – a contingency fund.”
The financial woes of Durbin continued as mayor Kenneth Lehman gave a report on what is owed to the IRS. In a recent audit, Durbin learned it owes $21,000 in back taxes and penalties for unpaid taxes dating back to 2006.
Lehman said he contacted the IRS and received some assistance with the bill.
“I have talked to Mr. Pickney, and I talked to the IRS in Cincinnati, Ohio,” he said. “Mr. Pickney said that the charges for the penalties should have gone away but the guy in Cincinnati said that the way the computer program was written, they would probably exist for another five months. He said we could request, in writing, that those penalties be removed. I have sent a letter to that effect requesting those penalties be removed. I haven’t heard anything back, yet, but it’s a start.”
Lehman said council has started to investigate the discrepancies, and he himself, reviewed old bank statements to ascertain where the money went if it didn’t go to the IRS.
“There’s some things that have to be done,” he said. “We have to get a lawyer involved. The municipal league said they would help us out. We could, stepping forward, go through the Attorney General. That’s where we have to start.”
The discrepancies don’t follow a pattern and have made it difficult to find when payments were made and were not made.
“We’ve been through all the bank records,” Lehman said. “It shows the amount that was taken out for the IRS. I know one particular quarter, it was January of 2011, and Mr. Pickney said it should have been fifteen hundred dollars and we paid a thousand dollars. We were five hundred dollars short. It’s short here. It’s short there. It’s not paid at all. As council, as mayor, as treasurer, it’s the whole government’s responsibility to know that those taxes haven’t been paid. It’s not just one person.”
Lehman said the council continues to pay off the debt and work with the IRS to reduce the penalties levied upon the debt.
• Council appointed Don Jennings to fill the vacant council seat left open by Jeremy Bauserman, who was appointed as town recorder at the October meeting. Jennings has served as mayor and councilmember in the past.
• Durbin Days Heritage Festival coordinator Judy Fuller reported that DDHF is hosting a Christmas Parade and party Saturday, December 5. The parade will be at 6 p.m., followed by crafts, snacks and a visit with Santa at the Durbin Public Library. The event will culminate with caroling around town at 8 p.m.
Durbin Town Council meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the town office.