David and Goliath meet on taxing structure

PAT FRIDGEN

The Franklin County Tax Collection Committee, formed of representatives from each taxing body in the county, took a small step toward selecting an agency to collect earned income taxes for the entire population, as required by Act 32 of 2008. The TCC, a governing entity, was created to implement and oversee the new method of collecting and disbursing the monies. Approximately 25 members of the committee met Jan. 28 in Chambersburg to work out some details prior to notifying Harrisburg in April of its progress.

Attending from Antrim Township was Bill Needy, from Greencastle, Mark Singer and James Farley, and from the school district, Richard Lipella.

The most important point under consideration was who should collect the taxes. David Jamison, chairman of the Greene Township Board of Supervisors, is also chairman of the TCC. He announced that selecting the Chambersburg Area Wage Tax Office, which currently serves Chambersburg borough and school district, Greene, St. Thomas and Mercersburg, had merit. He didn't want a wedge splitting the committee as he had heard "scuttlebutt" from the public that some members wanted a request for proposal because other agencies could do the job for lower fees.

Jamison, also chairman of the TCC bylaws panel and on the board of directors for CAWTO, advocated giving the bureau the responsibility, since it was willing to take on the burden. The Chambersburg school board the night before had approved a resolution to use CAWTO for two years for a test run.

Jamison was not satisfied with the bureau's expense line but said director James Clapper had trimmed health insurance benefits for the 20 employees for 2010. "Give us the opportunity to prove we can reduce operating expenses," Jamison said. "Chambersburg met us half way from what I want."

When Tuscarora school district business manager Eric Holtzman informed the group that his district, as well as Greencastle, Waynesboro and Fannett Metal had passed resolutions supporting an RFP to guarantee the most efficient and cost effective collection possible, Jamison responded, "Don't ram an RFP down our throats."

One representative asked how the TCC could know CAWTO was the best deal without some comparison. Holtzman added it did not make sense not to investigate what other companies could do. Mercersburg manager Jason Cohen said he liked CAWTO because the infrastructure was in place and the TCC would have control over it, he didn't want any employee to lose his job, and cost was not necessarily synonymous with value.

Lipella said no one knew what service CAWTO would actually provide, and it dictated its own price without any input from the TCC.

Big vs. small

A motion and second was put on the floor to get quotes from other companies, though not a formal RFP. Jamison cautioned that since the bylaws were not adopted, state law mandated weighted votes.

Municipal representatives favoring quotes for services came from Antrim, Greencastle, Greene, Mercersburg, Mont Alto, Quincy, St. Thomas, Washington Township, Waynesboro, and the school districts of Greencastle, Waynesboro, Tuscarora and Fannett Metal.

Voting no were Chambersburg, Guilford, Hamilton, Montgomery, Peters, Letterkenny, Metal and Chambersburg Area School District. With the two Chambersburg agencies carrying the most weight, the motion failed 47 to 50 percent.

A TCC member was puzzled. "Why would you NOT want a proposal? You're not bound. It just surprises me. If I, as an elected official, start doing stuff like that, I'll be out of office."

After discussion to clarify that the quotes would not exclude CAWTO from still getting the job, another vote was taken. Several parties switched their positions, with only Chambersburg borough and school district and Hamilton voting no. The measure passed 57 to 41 percent.

Volunteers then formed a committee to prepare the wording for the proposal. Members are Holtzman, Needy, Cohen, Deborah Frame from Fannett Metal, James Robertson from Waynesboro Area School District, Bob Gunder from Quincy and Jamison.

School resolution

The resolution passed by the four school districts stated that the purpose of a regional collection agency was to bring uniformity, consistency, efficiency and technology to the collection process. It noted that the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials determined that the current EIT system meant a loss of $100 million annually in revenue. The PA Economy League more than doubled that estimate. The districts wanted to ensure their tax monies were spent in the most efficient manner possible and a competitive process would support that. It advocated RFPs from non-profit and for-profit entities.