Stevens High School

Pictured is Stevens High School in Claremont. SAU 6, which includes Claremont and Unity, will no longer have to pay $320,000 in IRS fines after it filed the necessary health insurance paperwork.

CLAREMONT — Taxpayers don’t have to cover the $320,000 tax penalty imposed by the Internal Revenue Service after School Administrative Unit 6 failed to properly file health insurance forms.

IRS hits Claremont schools with $320,000 in penalties

IRS officials sent a letter to district officials this month informing them that the tax penalty will not be imposed. The district worked to get the missing 2016 information to the IRS after it was informed earlier this year about the penalties.

“Your information resolved our inquiry and you don’t need to do anything more at this time,” the letter states.

Claremont School Board Chairman Frank Sprague said the IRS officials who dealt with the district understood that the matter came down to improperly filed paperwork, and that there was no intent on the district’s part to violate any regulation.

“There was no intentionality. It was an oversight,” he said. “They were remarkably reasonable.”

In June, outgoing interim Superintendent Cory LeClair informed the board that she had become aware that the district’s business office had not been complying with federal filing requirements as part of the Affordable Care Act for district employees. A letter from IRS officials informed the district that it was facing a $160,000 fine for failing the filing requirements, and an additional $160,000 fine for failing to provide full-time district employees with specific forms required by the ACA.

LeClair hired an attorney to help the district navigate the issue. District Business Manager Michael O’Neill left his job in the district at the end of April, about the time the issue was first uncovered.

Sprague said that the new superintendent, Michael Tempesta, who started in July, has started putting in place new policies to make sure these types of errors are not repeated.

Earlier this year it was learned that another paperwork failure was costing the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding for the lunch program. This is the second year in a row the district lost out on lunch funding because application deadlines were missed. The resulting losses for Claremont were $150,700 for the 2017-18 school year and $188,300 for the 2018-19 school year, and more than $11,000 each year for Unity.

The district has garnered negative attention since former Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin was forced out last summer, following a dispute with the board over the district budget. Claremont further gained attention last year when the board considered hiring a collection agency to recover $32,000 in hot lunch debts.

This past February, interim Superintendent Keith Pfeifer was the cause of a panic alarm being set off at the district offices when he reportedly refused to leave following an issue with staff. Pfeifer resigned in March as part of a settlement agreement with the district.