Court rul­ing fa­vors Pen­nridge tax col­lec­tors

News-Herald (Perkasie, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jen­nifer Con­nor

The Pen­nridge School Board is still dis­cussing what to do next in re­gard to a de­ci­sion handed down by the Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court re­gard­ing tax col­lec­tors’ pay.

Last week, the Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court ruled against the Pen­nridge School Dis­trict and in fa­vor of the dis­trict’s tax col­lec­tors, whose com­pen­sa­tion was low­ered from $2.25 per tax bill to 70 cents per tax bill, a 69 per­cent de­crease, back in 2009. This com­pen­sa­tion rate for the Pen­nridge tax col­lec­tors was set for the 2010 through 2013 pe­riod. The rate was de­ter­mined by the cost of col­lect­ing taxes through a bank lock­box sys­tem, in­stead of tax col­lec­tors, which would achieve the same task by elim­i­nat­ing the tax col­lec­tor role.

The tax col­lec­tors’ ar­gu­ment stemmed from their be­lief that the lower rate acted as a way to force the FROOHFWRrV RuW RI RI­fiFH WR PDNH wDy for im­ple­ment­ing the bank lock­box sys­tem, which would cost the dis­trict less.

The dis­trict has main­tained that WKH GHFrHDVH wDV VLPSOy IRr fiQDQFLDO rea­sons. The de­crease would save Pen­nridge School Dis­trict $184,000 over four years.

“:H rHFRJQLzH WKH GLI­fiFuOWLHV faced by the school boards in per­iRGV RI fiQDQFLDO uQFHrWDLQOy, EuW LW LV be­yond the boards’ power to trans­form the lo­cal tax col­lec­tion sys­tem by re­duc­ing com­pen­sa­tion lev­els to such a de­gree that the elected WDx FROOHFWRrV DrH uQDEOH WR IuO­fiOO their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” wrote Jus­tice Thomas Say­lor.

The Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court last week also ruled in fa­vor of the tax col­lec­tors in their case against Cen­tral Bucks School Dis­trict, which low­ered pay­ment per tax bill from $3.50 in pre­vi­ous years to 72 cents for 2010-11, 81 cents for 201112 and 91 cents for 2012-13 — a cu­mu­la­tive de­crease of 79 per­cent.

The Pen­nridge School Board held ex­ec­u­tive ses­sions be­fore and af­ter its Aug. 27 meet­ing in part to dis­cuss how the dis­trict will han­dle the de­ci­sion, ac­cord­ing to board Pres­i­dent Dave Thomp­son.

:KHQ WKLV FDVH firVW DSSHDrHG LQ court in Oc­to­ber 2009, Bucks County Judge Clyde Waite ruled in fa­vor of the col­lec­tors, say­ing their value should be based on what other elected tax col­lec­tors in the re­gion are

paid. Changes to this sys­tem must come from the state Leg­is­la­ture, not the school dis­tricts, he ruled.

When the dis­tricts ap­pealed the de­ci­sion, Com­mon­wealth Court Judge Jim Fla­herty re­versed the de­ci­sion in May 2010. The tax col­lec­tors failed to prove that the dis­tricts were “ar­bi­trary and capri­cious” in their ac­tions, he ex­plained.

In re­vers­ing the Com­mon­wealth Court’s de­ci­sion, the Supreme Court said the dis­tricts’ de­ci­sion KDG PRrH WKDn VLPSOy fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions.

“It’s re­ally too early for us to be say­ing any­thing,” Thomp­son said. “We are wait­ing for le- gal in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the re­sults to de­ter­mine the ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion we should take.”

Pen­nridge has spent around $130,000 in the court bat­tle with its tax col­lec­tors, ac­cord­ing to Kathy John­son, Pen­nridge busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tor. Both school dis­tricts are split­ting the to­tal lit­i­ga­tion bill.

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