Pennridge debates pay for tax collectors
The Pennridge School Board Finance Committee debated paying the district’s tax collectors a difference of 50 cents per bill at its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 15.
The current rate for the real estate tax collectors is $2.25 per bill. The attorney representing the tax collectors, Michael Savona, proposed increasing this rate to $4 per bill with a $1,500 stipend for two taxing districts that collect fewer than 1,000 bills. The total stipend cost, then, would be $3,000.
The tax collectors have not received a pay increase in 12 years.
This is an election year for the tax collectors, who serve a fouryear term. The finance committee was tasked to agree on a rate the district would pay so the people running for election would know what they would be compensated.
The Pennridge tax collectors’ compensation rate had been cut by 69 percent back in 2009. Their pay dropped from $2.25 per tax bill to 70 cents. The tax collectors appealed, and the case was sent to the state
Supreme Court, which sided with the tax collectors.
The district decided to settle and provide the tax collectors with their backpay, totaling about $83,000.
The district’s lawyer, John Freund, developed a new proposal that would give the tax collectors $3 per bill, $1 per every installment bill and 50 cents for every real estate bill mailed in.
In contrast, the tax collector’s attorney suggested a flat rate of $4 per bill with the second component of the stipend for the Dublin and Silverdale collectors, who collect for fewer than 1,000 parcels.
Savona said a bipartisan committee studied how dis- tricts across the state handle collection of real estate taxes, and it found that using elected tax collectors is the cheapest, most cost-effective way to collect real estate taxes. In a survey of the 501 state school districts, the average price per real estate bill was somewhere between $3 and $4. The majority of school districts do not use elected tax collectors.
When school districts collect taxes themselves, the range is between $4 and $7 per bill.
Looking at neighboring communities, the county pays $4.80 per bill on average. Palisades School District pays $5 per bill, not including cost reimbursements.
“Four years ago, I asked you to reconsider and to adopt a reasonable rate of compensation,” Savona said. “I’m hoping this time you guys will listen a little more closely.”
Savona also suggested that if the committee would like to avoid a confrontation with the tax collectors every four years, the committee could consider an automatic increase in pay tied to an average Consumer Price Index increase, which would be about a 3 percent to 3.5 percent increase every four years. He called this automatic increase a “no-brainer.” If the board, for some reason, decided it could not keep increasing the pay, there would be a way to get out of the automatic increase agreement.
“Look at what you pay your other employees. I will guarantee you that none of them have gone 12 years without a pay increase,” Savona said. “Why would you go 12 years without acknowledging they’re at least as good as your other employees who get automatic increases every year?”
Tax collectors lined the back of the committee room, curious to see how the board members would react to Savona’s proposal that night.
Resident Scott Edgell said he did not want the district to consider how other school districts were handling the tax collector compensation issue because those areas had different demographics and income levels.
“I don’t care about what Central Bucks does,” Edgell said. “I care about Pennridge district.”
Edgell also said if the committee agreed to automatic increases, it would be abdicating its responsibility.
Board and finance committee members David Thompson, Ada Miller, Barry Casper, Frank Peiffer and Sue Furlong said they would like to see the tax collectors compensation be set at $4 per bill.
Board President Duane Deming and finance committee Chairman Bill Sarnese said they were comfortable following what Freund had proposed — a rate of about $3.50.
Sarnese said he was struggling to see the need to raise the rate to $4 per bill when other school districts in the area were still paying around the $2 per bill range.
Deming said he thought $3.50 was a fair rate, and he took issue to the way the tax collector’s attorney presented the information.
“I do not like either an actual or implied threat. And we got one tonight from their counsel who said, ‘Be very careful.’ I think responding to that is wrong,” he said.
Savona did not use those exact words in talking about the proposal.
Deming also said that talking about the past was not a big seller with him.
In other news, the finance committee reviewed the Act 1 Resolution limiting the real estate tax increase to the Act 1 Index, which means if the school district raises real estate taxes, the increase will not exceed 1.7 percent.
“It does not mean we are going to increase taxes to 1.7, but it says we will not increase taxes above that,” Treasurer Kathy Johnson said.
Sarnese said the board had passed this same resolution for the past two years.
The committee also approved several contracts to go to the full board, including a $300 author visit paid through the general fund and a motivational speaker event for $2,700 paid through the student activities fund.
The board will vote on the tax collectors’ compensation rate and the Act 1 Resolution at its board meeting Monday, Jan. 28.