Last updated: February 20. 2013 4:01AM - 454 Views

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Luzerne County Councilman Eugene Kelleher is proposing reducing the pay for 69 elected tax collectors from $3.50 per bill to $2 in 2014 and doing away with a $3.50 stipend for each bill that's unpaid.

The issue will be hashed out at tonight's county council meeting.

Council members have until Feb. 15 to decide whether they want to stop using or change the pay of 69 tax collectors who are elected this year. Alterations must be approved by ordinance at two separate meetings before that date.

Kelleher said his proposed pay reduction would save an estimated $196,377 annually.

He said he can justify the decrease because the county pays four home-rule municipalities – Kingston, Kingston Township, Wilkes-Barre Township and Hazleton – $1.50 to collect each county tax bill. These municipalities receive no payment for unpaid bills, he said.

We'd still be paying the tax collectors more than the home-rule municipalities, and if they're not willing to take that, we could have the county treasurer's office or an outside company handle county collection, Kelleher said.

Council Chairman Tim McGinley said at least four of the 11 council members must vote to get a proposed ordinance on the table for discussion.

County Councilman Rick Morelli told his council colleagues he will introduce a proposed ordinance that lowers elected tax-collector stipends to $3.25 when county property-tax payments are received and $1.50 for uncollected bills. The treasurer's office says this would save about $56,000 annually based on 2011 collections.

Councilman Jim Bobeck has expressed support for the administration's recommendation to switch to in-house tax collection by the treasurer's office, which projects it can save $258,555 annually after the addition of three employees.

The county also has the option to seek proposals from both the treasurer's office and outside companies to potentially save more, he said. The elected tax collectors have publicly offered to keep their payment at $3.50 per collected bill and lower their stipend for unpaid bills from $3.50 to $1.50.

The county spends $409,119 on elected tax collectors, and the collectors say the $2 reduction for unpaid bills would save about $100,000 over four years.

The elected collectors have hinted at the possibility of a lawsuit if the county outsources their work or reduces payments to an amount they deem unacceptable. The county Tax Collectors Association has retained Philadelphia area attorney Michael Savona.

If you go

Luzerne County Council will discuss tax collection options at 7 tonight in the county's Emergency Management Agency building, Water Street, Wilkes-Barre.

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