Luzerne County Council is seeking a legal opinion before pursuing the possible outsourcing of county tax collection.
Council Chairman Tim McGinley said he requested solicitor input because elected tax collectors had submitted paperwork asserting the county didn't have legal authority to stop using their services under the new home rule government.
County Solicitor David Schwager is researching case law and will brief council, probably next week, McGinley said.
County officials believed home rule gave council the power to stop using 69 elected tax collectors for county tax collection after their terms expire at the end of 2013 because the charter was silent on their continuance.
That same belief prompted the county's elected tax collectors to unsuccessfully campaign against home rule in 2010.
But McGinley said the tax collectors presented a letter to council at the end of August citing case law and other information maintaining they must be kept.
McGinley said he wants to ensure council is on solid legal ground before voting on options to outsource county tax collection or absorb the work in-house.
Hanover Township tax collector Mildred Luba, head of the county Tax Collectors Association, could not be reached for comment.
Before home rule was adopted, charter drafters had said they purposefully kept tax collectors out of the charter because they did not want any change in their current roles.
However, county solicitor Vito DeLuca said tax collector inclusion in the charter was the only way to guarantee future council members would continue using their services.
Tax collectors are paid $3.50 per bill, with no benefits, to collect county taxes.
Council must make a decision on any changes involving tax collectors by January because tax collector seats are on the ballot in 2013. Reducing the pay also is an option for council.
Councilman Jim Bobeck said he will be disappointed if the county is prevented from changing tax collection.
I'd like to see us move forward on this to outsource and save money, but the legalities must be respected, Bobeck said.