The IRS says it will forgive $215,947.69 in penalties and interest owed by the Town of Winnsboro.
Mayor Sonny Dumas made the announcement at the Town Council’s regular meeting Monday night amid cheers and congratulations.
The forgiven penalties and interest date to 2015 during former Mayor Jackie Johnson’s administration.
In the last year, Winnsboro has paid nearly $900,000 in back payroll taxes, unpaid bills and retirement funds. To pay the debt, Winnsboro exhausted funds held in certificates of deposit at Progressive Bank.
“For 2015, the penalties alone from the IRS was $215,000,” Dumas said. “Today ladies and gentlemen I would like to announce the debt penalty is at zero.”
Dumas gave credit to Congressman Ralph Abraham, auditor Jay Walker with J. Walker & Company of Lake Charles, Winnsboro Clerk Julia Jackson, Winnsboro budget manager Cal Pierce and Doyle Hassell, a CPA in Winnsboro.
“This was made possible due to diligent people working with this administration,” Dumas said. “We did this because they said Winnsboro was on its way to going to a fiscal administrator. We said we were not going to let that happen. Thank you for never giving up on us.”
In his letter written to the IRS, Abraham called Winnsboro beautiful but impoverished. He said penalties and interest would hinder Dumas’s ability to provide services and support.
“Winnsboro is a beautiful town filled with truly incredible people; however, it is also a part of one of the highest poverty regions in the country,” Abraham said. “While the town’s economy has improved in recent years, they will face significant financial challenges. These challenges hinder administration’s ability to provide much needed services and support to the town and its citizens. Added financial burdens would have a devastating impact on the town. I urge you to examine the full set of circumstances that led to this situation, as well as consider the financial stress currently faced by the town…I am encouraged by the efforts taken by the Town of Winnsboro.”
On another front, the Town Council passed a resolution to allow Winnsboro’s Main Street Economic Committee to participate in the Louisiana Development Ready Community (LDRC) program through the Louisiana Economic Development.
The Main Street Economic Committee is a subcommittee to Winnsboro’s Main Street program.
LDRC supports selected Louisiana communities to become development ready and “open for business” by creating and implementing a strategic five-year plan. Each community’s plan includes strategies to address education, workforce development, infrastructure, leadership and marketing / communications.
Committee members are now gathering information to development strategies for the improvements, said Carmen Sims, committee member.
“These are the worker bees,” said Kay LaFrance-Knight, director of Winnsboro’s Main Street program. “They have already accomplished so much. What we are trying to do is to become a better community and strategize to make good things happen whether it be the way we look, education system, parks or whatever. These people are doing things it takes to contact the right people.”
Committee members are made up of several diverse community leaders each assigned different areas such as education, parks and recreation, infrastructure, etc.