Fairmount Township tax collector Dorethea Dohl owes $13,725 in back taxes on her own properties, prompting public criticism from Luzerne County Councilman Edward Brominski.
‚??Tax collectors should be above reproach. It‚??s a travesty,‚?Ě Brominski said Tuesday.
Dohl, who was appointed by township officials after the sudden retirement of the elected tax collector, said Tuesday her family has been struggled financially operating a dairy farm.
‚??It‚??s a very difficult business,‚?Ě she said.
The family is in the process of selling its dairy cows to focus solely on grain crops, which should yield a profit, she said.
Dohl said a township official approached her about the tax collector post because others had declined the job after Theresa Roman‚??s retirement.
She said she accepted the post in February because she has financial experience at the farm and another family business.
Dohl said she didn‚??t discuss her delinquent taxes with township officials, and they didn‚??t mention the issue. She said her personal finances were examined to obtain a required bond, which protects taxing bodies if property taxes are lost or stolen.
She said her experience as a delinquent taxpayer helps her better relate to township property owners who also are struggling to pay. Dohl also said she‚??s not ignoring the obligation.
‚??They‚??re being paid,‚?Ě Dohl said.
Dohl and her husband, Larry, signed up for a repayment plan last month with the county tax claim office because their seven properties, all in the township, were listed in the Sept. 20 back-tax auction. Taxes are owed for 2010 and 2011, records show.
Their next payment installment of $1,236 is due Sept. 28, records show.
Property owners can keep their properties out of a sale if they stick to payment plans, though the option is off-limits for those who defaulted on a prior payment plan within the last three years.
Brominski said he sympathizes with property owners facing financial difficulties but said all tax collectors should be current on their own properties because urging timely payment is one of their primary duties.
He raised the tax delinquency issue at last week‚??s county council meeting during a discussion on options for county tax collection.
County officials have been stressing the need for all tax collectors to strive for high collection rates. Some tax collectors contact property owners by phone to remind them to pay.
The county‚??s new home rule government gives council the power to stop using 69 elected tax collectors or reduce their pay. Elected tax collectors are paid $3.50 per bill.
Council members said they need more research and discussion before voting on the matter. A decision must be made by the end of the year because tax collector seats are on the ballot in 2013.