Baltimore school owes government over $190,000 2 liens filed against Sojourner-Douglass for unpaid taxes

January 04, 1993|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writer

Sojourner-Douglass College, the small financially troubled East Baltimore institution, owes the federal government more than $191,000 in back taxes, court records show.

The Internal Revenue Service filed two liens against the college recently for unpaid Social Security and income tax withholding totaling $191,036, according to court records here.

The unpaid taxes date back to 1988, but more than half, $96,000, are from the first six months of 1992. The IRS also filed two liens against the college in October, totaling $5,836 in unpaid taxes.

None of the outstanding taxes have been paid, court records show. The liens serve as the government's claims on the school's assets.

The unpaid taxes represent a large chunk of the school's budget of roughly $1.9 million.

Robert J. Dunmore, the college's chief financial officer since July, said he could provide no information on why the tax bills went unpaid.

Mr. Dunmore said that the college has been paying its tax bills on time since he arrived last summer and college officials have been negotiating with the IRS on a repayment schedule.

The liens are the latest in a series of financial woes to hit the private college.

A 1992 evaluation for the Maryland Higher Education Commission found a series of problems with the school's finances.

The U.S. Department of Education recently made Sojourner-Douglass students ineligible for federal loan programs because of a history of high loan-default rates for the college's students. The school may appeal the decision.

Mr. Dunmore said a drop in enrollment has hurt the college's finances the last few years, but he said he saw "no problem" with the college's financial future.

Mr. Dunmore referred other questions to college President Charles W. Simmons.

Dr. Simmons did not return several phone calls yesterday.

Sampson Green Jr., chairman of the college's Board of Trustees, said he did not know about the liens.

Sojourner-Douglass' enrollment has declined steadily the last several years, going from a high of 479 in 1985 to 193 in 1991. Enrollment inched back up to 218 this school year.

The state's team of independent evaluators found last year, for example, that the school had no financial reserves to meet budget shortfalls.

The evaluators also said the school lacked qualified supervisors in both its business and financial aid offices. Its accounting was handled by an outside firm with little day-to-day oversight, the team found.

"The financial records, in fact, were insufficient to permit the team to accurately determine the current fiscal condition of the College," the team wrote in its report.

A spokesman for the Maryland Higher Education Commission was unable to say yesterday what steps the college had taken in response to the issues raised by the evaluation team.

The 20-year-old college, which is located in the 500 block of N. Caroline St., offers evening and weekend classes in administration, social work, criminal justice, gerontology, psychology and early childhood education.

The school is budgeted to receive roughly $150,000 from the state of Maryland this year.

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