Steamboat Education Fund Board recoups some attorney fees

Former accountant Paul Strong agrees to give cash, in-kind payment

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Fund Board requests*

Steamboat Springs

Effective classrooms: $800,000

Technology: $900,000

Staff development: $40,000

Curriculum director (to share with South Routt): $60,000

Third- through eighth-grade Spanish instruction: $100,000

Summer school (to share with Hayden and South Routt): $20,000

Total: $1,920,000

Hayden

Technology support staff member: $50,000

Software license: $7,000

Online reading software: $3,000

Middle school paraprofessional: $22,000

SMART Board grant match: $25,000

Computers: $10,000

Adobe software: $10,000

Auditorium lighting: $9,000

Auditorium curtains: $8,200

Auditorium carpet: $8,300

Summer school (to share with Steamboat and South Routt): $7,000

Total: $159,500

South Routt

Science chemical storage and fume hood: $16,500

SMART Board grant match: $86,250

Desktop computers: $30,000

Online reading software: $5,498

Antivirus software: $3,000

Heated underground walkway between high school and middle school: $34,595

Curriculum director (to share with Steamboat): $40,000

Summer school (to share with Steamboat) $7,000

Total: $222,843

Community groups

Partners in Routt County school-based mentoring program: $50,000

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps Yampa Valley Science School: $34,000

Yampatika environmental literacy programs: $29,692

Total: $113,692

Total requests:$2,416,035

*All requests are listed in order of priority by district. They are available in more detail on the Fund Board’s website at www.steamboateducationfund.org.

— Paul Strong will pay the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board a portion of the attorney fees it incurred while successfully appealing penalties levied by the Internal Revenue Service for failing to file tax returns for four years, it was announced Wednesday night.

Strong, the former Fund Board accountant, agreed to pay $928 and to donate accounting services valued at $900 for a total of $1,828, Fund Board member Roger Good said during Wednesday’s board meeting. Strong was relieved of his duties in June because he failed to file the Form 990, required of nonprofit organizations, for tax years 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The tax returns have since been filed, but the Fund Board, which allocates the city of Steam­­boat Springs’ half-cent sales tax for education, was assessed penalties totaling $168,700 in November. The Fund Board enlisted a Denver tax attorney to appeal the penalties. In notices dated Jan. 3, the IRS waived the penalties, but the Fund Board owes the attorney $3,343.

Strong’s payment of $928 is equivalent to a month’s pay from when the Fund Board employed him. The $900 is the estimated value of accounting services provided by Strong when he finally filed the four overdue tax returns.

Good said he approached Strong to see if he would be willing to help pay for the attorney fees. Strong wasn’t at the meeting and didn’t return messages to his cell and home/office phones afterward.

A few Fund Board members argued that the accounting services were a part of Strong’s former job and that he should pay more because he was responsible for not filing the tax returns.

“Ultimately, this board is responsible. The buck stops here,” said Fund Board member Mark Andersen, the group’s former president. “The choice the board has is whether we want to pursue Paul and say, ‘Give us this money.’ It’s already been said that it will probably cost us more (in attorney fees) to get this money back. I think this is a good faith offer from Paul, and we should accept it.”

Fund Board member Dean Massey said he has approached former Fund Board auditor Cat­­terson & Co. to inquire about paying some of the attorney fees, but hasn’t received a response. Massey said he would continue trying to reach out to the local firm.

Kristi Brown, the Fund Board’s president, said the group has taken steps to ensure is annual tax return is filed on time in the future. She said the Fund Board has a new accountant and auditor, created a finance subcommittee, has new processes and policies, and added payment of the tax return to its annual timetable.

“All these measures significantly improve our financial oversight of the fund,” she said. “I think that’s all good stuff that came out of this.”

In other action, the Fund Board heard initial funding requests from the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts and three community groups for next year totaling more than $2.41 million.

The Fund Board’s tentative 2011-12 budget is $2.5 million. After taking out $80,000 for the Fund Board’s grant writer, which serves all three districts, $30,000 for administrative costs and $50,000 for innovation grants, the Fund Board will have about $2.34 million to gift next year.

“We’re very close to being able to fund everything that’s been requested so far,” Brown said.

The districts and community groups will present their specific requests to the Fund Board’s Technology/Capital and Educational Excellence commissions later this month. The commissions will then take their recommendations to the Fund Board in February. The Fund Board will consider second readings in March, when the final budget will be approved.

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