Last updated: February 20. 2013 4:53AM - 530 Views

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Jim Bobeck said he and fellow Luzerne County Councilman Eugene Kelleher have come up with an addition to a proposed ordinance to bring county tax collection in-house.

The administration projects $258,555 in annual savings if the county treasurer's office takes over the service now handled by 69 elected tax collectors.

Bobeck said he and Kelleher will propose adding a clause requiring the savings to be deposited in the contingency fund, where it will be targeted toward the county's $430 million in outstanding debt.

It's a no-growth, pay-down-debt provision amendment, Bobeck said.

The elected collectors currently receive $3.50 per bill, both collected and unpaid, and have proposed a reduced $2.75 stipend for paid bills and $1 for uncollected ones. They also would be eligible for 25-cent payments on paid bills if they exceed their collection rates over the prior three years. The savings, without incentives: $125,000.

Council members also have proposed $2 stipends for collected bills and $1 or nothing for unpaid ones, which would save $228,000 to $234,000.

Council will vote on the options Feb. 12.

• Kelleher praised representatives of the elected tax collectors Thursday night for their professional demeanor during a pay options negotiation session with three council members.

The councilman said one of his council colleagues cursed during a meeting last week.

That stuff shouldn't be, he said.

• County council candidates can start circulating their nomination petitions Feb. 19, and only one county resident – Democrat Renee Ciaruffoli-Taffera, Larksville – has formally announced plans to run to date.

Five seats are up for grabs.

• The former commissioners' meeting room on the first floor of the county courthouse will be prepped for council meetings in about three weeks, county Manager Robert Lawton told council last week.

Lawton said the room has been wired to accommodate the equipment needs of Service Electric Cable, which has televised council meetings currently held at the county's Emergency Management Agency building.

• Council Chairman Tim McGinley said a wall between two of the three former commissioner offices has been removed to create a needed conference room.

• Around 60 county residents have signed a petition started by some citizens asking county Controller Walter Griffith to take legal action forcing council and the manager to address alleged home rule charter violations, said Fairmount Township resident Michael Giamber, who spearheaded the petition.

Giamber said the petition was presented to Griffith last week. Griffith has said he agrees with many of the petition points but does not know if he can take action without budgeted funds for a solicitor.

• The county has received 171 applications for eight county division head positions, Lawton said.

The human resources department has started redacting applicant names and other identifying information and determining which met minimum qualifications. Lawton said he will be removed from the selection process until interviewing panels recommend top candidates for his consideration.

• Binding arbitration hearings are under way for the county's 110-member court-related union, which includes sheriff deputies and clerks in several court-related offices.

The median salary for unit employees ranges from $27,650 to $32,875, depending on the department. The union is represented by the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, or AFSCME.

• Citizen comment was missed on future tax collection options at Tuesday's council meeting.

Kingston resident Brian Shiner didn't let the packed audience of 40 elected tax collectors intimidate him from encouraging council to pursue the switch to in-house collection.

Shiner said the projected savings by assigning the treasurer's office to collect would total at least $1 million over four years.

We need that million, he said.

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