Court ruling favors Pennridge tax collectors
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.