The Chester Upland School District, which hasn't had enough money to pay its staff or buy pencils and paper in recent years, also has come up short with the tax man.
The Delaware County district did not pay $440,000 in employee earned-income tax to the City of Chester, Chester Township, and Upland Borough for 2014, 2015, and half of 2016. It owes an additional $130,000 in penalty and interest, according to Peter Barsz, the district receiver.
Chester Upland tried to pay its tax bills last March and July, Barsz said, but both times the money was not accepted because the fine and interest were not included. The district's attorney has been trying to get in touch with Keystone Collections Group, the tax-collection agency, to negotiate the penalty, but "we didn't have any luck getting through," Barsz said.
Keystone could not be reached for comment.
Barsz, who came to the district in June, said chief business administrator Karen DeShullo told him she lacked sufficient staff to get the local taxes filed. "That's what she stated," he said, adding that he believed the district was up to date with all other taxes.
Chester Upland has again cut a check for the back taxes and asked its attorney to give it to the collection agency, with the understanding that the district would like to have the penalty and interest "reduced or abated," Barsz said. If the collection agency and the taxing authorities are not "lenient," he said, "we'd be forced to pay" the extra fees.
Nasif Nichols, chief financial officer for the City of Chester, said anything the school district can negotiate with Keystone would be appreciated.
"Everyone knows Chester is a financially distressed city and we are in the process of recovering, so every dime is crucial coming in the door," Nichols said. "For us, not receiving those tax dollars, that's why we're in the situation we're in."
The district, one of the poorest in the state, has a long history of coming up short when bills arrive. Teachers were told they wouldn't be paid when they returned to work in September 2015. The state, which oversees Chester Upland because of its long history of financial and academic problems, gave the district $5 million to pay its staff.