Sunday, February 03, 2013

The LuLac Edition #2348, February 3rd, 2013

Congressman Lou Barletta. (Photo: Barletta for Congress).


Check out Congressman Lou Barletta later this morning on This Week With George Stephanopoulos. Topic: Immigration Reform. The Show airs on WNEP TV at 10am.
Luzerne County Councilman Jim Bobeck. (Photo: Citizen's Voice).


Former Luzerne County Council Chairman Jim Bobeck has some thoughts on the on going debate about the use of Tax Collectors in the new form of county government. Attorney Bobeck shared his thoughts with the local news organizations and we were glad and flattered to be included in his communications to them. Here's what he reported on what he thinks about this issue.

In-House County Tax Collection: Smaller Government, More Savings, and Real Accountability

Over the past months, Luzerne County has hosted a very healthy debate in which all taxpayers have a stake: Whether the County should collect its own taxes through its own office (in-house) or continue relying upon 69 different elected tax collectors. With the change to Home Rule, new opportunities have emerged for sound fiscal management. The County Council has the once in every four years opportunity to change the method of tax collection, which must be done prior to February 15, 2013. Many reasons exist for utilizing our own county staff for the collection: financial savings, additional revenue, better service hours for taxpayers, and greater accountability. The true shareholders of this new government are the taxpayers, and for the following reasons, in-house collection best serves the taxpayer and the county as a whole: Smaller Government, less cost: Instead of having the county’s financial revenue flow through the hands of 69 different tax collectors, the county would consolidate collection into its already existing office. By consolidating collection, the county saves approximately $268,000 annually and receives the money immediately for cash flow purposes. This immediate injection stops the practice of needing short term loans to simply keep the government afloat until taxes come in. 

Greater Accountability: With taxes currently flowing through the hands of 69 different tax collectors, taxes would instead go to one central source, in which all taxes would be processed and tracked through a centralized computer program. Currently, some tax collectors use computer systems of their choosing, and others rely on “pad and paper” methods. Worse, the county has no enforcement mechanism over elected tax collectors to force them to pay the county promptly on taxes received. However, by bringing tax collection in-house, we create accountability by one uniform processing method.  


Revenue Generation: Conservatively, the county would receive an additional $130,000 per year in revenue simply through certifying or making duplicates of its own tax bills. Currently, tax payers charge anywhere from $10-30 dollars for the creation of a duplicate/certified bill (Each Tax collector chooses their own fee). However, by only charging $10.00, the county can standardize fees across the county and reap an additional $130,000 on top of the $268,000 in savings previously mentioned through consolidating. This results in almost $400,000 year in savings.

Earmarking Savings for Debt Service: Council Member Gene Kelleher is a Republican, and I am a Democrat. However we agree that fiscal accountability doesn’t belong to one party. We propose that any actual savings realized through in-house collection over the first two to four years would be earmarked specifically toward the County’s contingency fund. Once earmarked for contingency, it can be used for debt service and paying down debt at a quicker rate. The savings would not in any way be used to maintain current operations or grow government. It’s called a NO GOVERNMENTAL GROWTH provision. 

Better Business practices: Currently, the county does not have any bond rating. However, when agencies review whether a County can get a rating, they look at what best practices have you incorporated. By consolidating tax collection (instead of the County paying a “middle man fee” as we currently do with tax collectors), we demonstrate fiscal prudency and take one more step toward solvency and an actual credit rating. With a credit rating, we can finally refinance our debt on better terms. 

Service: Right now, tax collectors set their own hours. Some work a few days per week, and others only 3 hours per week. However, by going in-house, the taxpayer would have service Monday through Friday for 7.5 hours per day. Furthermore, the county can open up on weekends during critical tax periods (like around discount periods) and use one of its existing satellite offices in Hazleton to reach all parts of the County. Furthermore, some say our elderly citizens would not be able to pay their bills without a tax collector. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The elderly pay their rent/mortgage, utilities, and insurance, and even file their own taxes. Do the elderly really need a tax collector to help them pay a tax bill which only requires a check to be mailed? I don’t think so, and I think it’s disingenuous to suggest the elderly are not capable of paying their own bill. 

Incentives: Does anyone have more of an incentive to collect its own taxes than the county itself? Attempts in the past (by municipalities, districts, and counties) have been made to incentivize tax collectors. However, the county workforce relies on that tax revenue more than anyone to sustain themselves and the basic day to day operations. In house collection would tune the county workforce directly in step with its major source of financial revenue. 

Summary: We all like our tax collectors as individuals. They provide a friendly face at times. However, it’s not about the individual, but instead changing the system of tax collection as a whole. However, almost 40% (and rising) of taxpayers pay their taxes through an escrow account, which means a private bank is already collecting the taxes. However, the county pays $3.50 per bill to the elected tax collector before the money gets to the county. Furthermore, many people simply pay their pay bill through the mail. They get the bill, and just send the check (yet, we still lose $3.50 per bill to tax collectors before the money gets to the County). Again, it’s the system, and the system is archaic, outdated, and expensive. Let’s move forward together. After a century of collecting taxes through elected officials, the county is ready to take control of its own destiny. 
James L. Bobeck,
Esquire County Council Member


At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go Lou!!! Someone's gotta get the ball rolling against Barack's stupid moves with all the illegals. I don't want to hear that "They're just trying to get a better life for themselves" crap either. The vast majority of them are nothing but trouble and expect handouts from the rest of us taxpayers.

At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Brian Shiner said...

Once the savings are placed in the contingency fund they could be further defined as 'Debt Reduction' only.

The term Tax Collector is a misnomer. They are really Acceptors or Receivers of our tax payments as they do not actively, aggressively, collect the money.

They are a political luxury we can no longer afford.

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Lou was not only on the show but he was on the panel. I mean he was saying the same things he was saying with Andy Mehalchick and L.A. Tarone but the setting just changed.

At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about a feature on the young up and comers in the Lu and the Lac
for Lulac? There are a few in both counties. I mean politically by the way.


At 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

12 million illegals and these empty heads think they can be eliminated in some way. Laughable!

I read a comment a while back that suggested the county create a 1.3 mill tax for a dedicated debt fund and now maybe that idea will take on reality. I agree that once the debt is segregated from the general fund, a very clear and real picture of county finances will come into view. Right now, the brains of the county including the manager think that they can continue to pay the debt and run the county eliminating employees. I don't think that Bobeck has a clear picture of the labor involved in the treasurer's office collecting all the taxes. Each tax bill needs to be handled in a separate transaction including issuing a receipt. I can't see how this can be done with no additional staff. I predict 3 employees to handle the extra work but I'm wondering if tax collectors will continue to collect school and municipal taxes. Bobeck was unclear on that.

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...,175070

how much did bobeck pay you for this endorsement?

At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Brian Shiner said...

Yes, they will still run for election and continue to 'collect' most school and municipal taxes.

The Treasurer's Office already accepts the payments for Pittston, W-B City & Nanticoke so adding a few more employees to their staff should be sufficient especially since 40% of the bills are paid through escrow accounts (mortgage companies, etc.) and many people simply mail them in. The County is also set up for online electronic payments.

At 6:38 PM, Blogger David Yonki said...

how much did bobeck pay you for this endorsement?


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