Naples board unaware of business’ back-tax debt

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Two selectmen provided incorrect information when asked what is being done to collect a sizable tax debt owed to the Town of Naples by one local business.

Currently, the community-based company — which has been brought up during discussions in public forums — is actively pursuing options to pay off the back taxes.

However, two selectmen seem to be caught in a contradiction — they had no knowledge of a $150,000 tax debt owed by one company. To boot, that company has the snowplowing contract with the town. There are other outstanding tax debts, making it unfair to single out one business in Naples.

This particular delinquent property tax debt, which is owed by P&K Sand and Gravel, Inc., was brought up during a Naples Board of Selectmen meeting.

On Nov. 30, Naples Budget Committee Chairman Jim Turpin referred to work being done by the Casco Board of Selectmen to legally put pressure on businesses that owe personal property taxes in that town.

Specifically, during public participation time, Turpin asked if delinquent tax bills were an element of concern for the Naples board. He was told by Selectman Dana Watson that there was no need for concern because P&K did not owe back taxes to the Town of Naples.

“Nope, they don’t owe us nothing. They are all set,” Watson said.

“Casco doesn’t owe us,” Chairman Bob Caron II asked.

“P&K doesn’t owe us anything,” Watson said.

Caron repeated Watson’s statement: “P&K doesn’t owe us anything.”

Turpin responded to the information, saying, “That has changed since the last time I looked. That is great to hear, thank you.”

Less than an hour later, toward the end of the meeting, Watson clarified his statement, saying, “I just wanted to say to Jim, I haven’t looked at the books. They may owe us; we may owe them. But, they don’t owe the ‘other’ tax.”

At the time, the “other” tax being referred to was the personal property tax.

On Dec. 2, through a series of e-mails, it came to light that P&K’s tax debt balance had not yet been brought to zero.

First, Turpin sent an e-mail to Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak. Turpin copied the information from the 2015 Town Report, which was published prior to the property tax commitment for this fiscal year. He said he was confused whether or not any taxes were owed after hearing Watson’s comments.

In a return e-mail, Paraschak confirmed that P&K owed a total sum of $159,861.

“Looking up their account, P&K owes $143,245 in personal property taxes (taxes on machinery for two accounts) over the last six years including the taxes committed for this year. They also owe $16,616 in real estate taxes for four properties in Naples, none of which have foreclosed on to date but are collecting interest owed,” Paraschak wrote.

According to documents, P&K kept up on their property (or real estate) tax payments every year until fiscal year 2013–2014.

“I am obviously concerned about the owed taxes,” Paraschak said in the e-mail to Turpin, “but equally concerned that they are the town’s plowing contractor and are falling behind in their taxes.”

“If the contractor were to not be able to fulfill the requirements of the remainder of their contract during a winter, the town would be put in a turbulent position where we would likely have to immediately pay much more to attract another contractor or start a public works department,” Paraschak said. “I am not suggesting that the town look the other way by any means, but the board of selectmen will have to work with P&K to get the past payments.”

On Dec. 2, Watson was asked about the tax debt comments made at the meeting two days earlier.

“What I said Monday night. They may owe us some other tax. They don’t owe us on personal property tax,” Watson said. “Lately, they don’t owe us nothing.”

Then, he was told the amount of P&K’s outstanding balance.

“Okay, maybe I was just misinformed. I didn’t know about the personal property tax,” Watson said.

Also, on Dec. 2, Chairman Caron responded to news of a tax debt on the books.

“Jim made mention of it. Dana said it was all taken care of,” Caron said. “I don’t know where it is. I don’t go into the town office every day and check on who has paid their taxes. Dana was the one who interacted with him.”

When asked what policies might be put into place to more effectively collect back taxes, Caron said the board has “talked about taxes multiple times this year. Go back and look at the minutes.”

However, to date, the board has not held a workshop or put on the agenda ways to leverage collection of back taxes. One source of income for the town could be the collection of taxes already owed and recorded as such in public documents. Will it be on the selectmen’s agenda?

“Do we go to everyone who owes us taxes? No. I know people have paid their back taxes and there are businesses that owe the town money,” Caron said.

P&K co-owner Bruce Plummer manages most of the daily operations of the longtime, family-owned business.

“I know I owe that tax,” Plummer said.

P&K is trying to resolve the company’s tax debt. He has been communicating with several banks about taking out a loan, he said.

“I intend to contact both towns and arrange a payment plan until I can get a bank loan,” he said.

The recent recession had a direct impact on the company’s ability to even afford to pay the taxes.

“With the downturn of the economy in 2008, our income was reduced by two-thirds. It was a struggle to keep the doors open,” he said. “With payrolls and sales tax and equipment and fuel, we were up-to-date on everything except for those two (tax) issues.”

Plummer added that P&K is a major employer with a $1.3 million payroll budget.

This was the first year that the company has turned a profit; and finally, the company can plan a budget that includes tax payments, he said.

Plummer said his family has contributed to the community over the decades including gifting a sports field to the town, helping out the American Legion Post No. 155, donating to Camp Sunshine, and volunteering for free as firefighters.

Another Naples businessman Dan Craffey, who also sits on the Naples Budget Committee, vouched for P&K as a standup business.

“The last 10 years in the boat business, I have seen the economy slow down. We just had the Great Recession. It’s been hard for small businesses and especially contractors,” he said. “P&K is a big employer in the community. They do good things for the Town of Naples when people need them.”

Not only is P&K geared toward giving back to the community, but it is a reputable and professional company, said Craffey, who has worked firsthand with P&K employees on many projects.

“The Town of Naples owes it to them to work with them,” Craffey said.

To see the recording of the Naples Board of Selectmen meeting for Nov. 30, go to Lake Region Television’s website, where it can be watched from a personal computer. People with cable TV access can view the meeting as those showings are scheduled on Channel 5 or Channel 7.

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