Local tax collectors seek second raise in 13 years

— By PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Sue Myers (left), Antrim Township Tax Collector and Barbara Bock, Greencastle Tax Collector

In the past 13 years, the Greencastle-Antrim School District remuneration to local tax collectors went up only a nickel. That was enough of an insult that former Antrim Township tax collector Peggy Dixon chose not to run for re-election in 2009. She was succeeded by Sue Myers, who has asked the school to give her a raise for collecting the real estate taxes for the district.

Currently, G-ASD pays her and Greencastle tax collector Barbara Bock $1.40 per tax bill. They have requested $3 for 2014. They did not ask for an increase in the fee structure for collecting the $15 per capita tax, which is $1.25 per bill. They receive no fringe benefits from the school district or their respective municipalities.

"I thought this was the time to ask," said Myers, "because you only get a chance every four years."

Her term expires at the end of the year, and the seat will be on the 2013 municipal election ballot.

Bock said the collection process has become more complicated in recent years.  Money is due to the municipalities, including Franklin County, by the end of the year.

"It gets hairy," she said. She also took over her position in 2010.

Both said state law requires that an elected official collect the tax, so that Franklin County Area Tax Bureau, which handles earned income tax, was not an option to take over the duty. Bock said the law was designed to avoid a conflict of interest, should a taxing body want to collect for itself.

Dixon, who helps Myers during the busiest times, said the 5-cent raise during her tenure was "a slap in the face. Was that all my time was worth?" She had taken the post in 2002, following Janie Martin.

Myers dealt with 6,599 bills in 2012, and 223 of the taxpayers used the installment plan. She received $1 from the school for each of the three payments, "but I handle the bills three times."

The request to G-ASD was to match the $3 payment from Franklin County. Myers collected $3.9 million for the county last year, and $14.4 million for the school district.

"If $3 is worth it to the county, why not to the school?" she mused.

Though both tax collectors have part-time office hours, Myers said the job was definitely fulltime. Dixon inserted that one person could not handle the workload. Myers also noted her expenses were going up. She needed $800 software so she didn't have to depend on the school software and school hours to complete her responsibilities. Her own computer system could not handle installment payments.

G-ASD business manager Jolinda Wilson said the two tax collectors obtained $18.2 million in real estate tax revenue and $134,000 in per capita tax revenue in 2012.

She presented to the school board information on the effect of different levels of compensation for Myers and Bock. The board had to determine the figure by Feb. 15, and it would take effect on July 1. She said the rate of $2 per tax bill would be on the Feb. 7 school board meeting agenda, to be voted up or down.

Per capita debate

Greencastle Borough Council repealed the per capita tax in December, thinking it had to because it adopted the $52 Local Services Tax. It turned out not to be necessary. The tax is collected in Antrim Township. The school board has considered dropping the per capita tax, calling it a nuisance.

The tax collectors want it to be retained.

"Dropping it would be a mistake," said Bock. "They would be charging homeowners again (to make up the difference) and missing renters. There are a lot of renters in Greencastle and they have children in the school district. They should help with the tax burden, at least a little."

Myers took the same stance. "It would be a big pay cut for me. The $104,000 lost from Antrim Township will have to be made up elsewhere.  The per capita is a way to get money from renters. It is a pain to collect, but when our offices lose that much, it hurts."

Wilson said the only way to recover the total $134,000 would be to raise the real estate millage rate by approximately one-half mill. Wilson said a half mill to the average property owner in the district is equal to $11.49.