T he line had been drawn in the sand.
On one side -- York County's three commissioners.
On the other -- the North Codorus Township Board of Supervisors.
The issue? Who gets to collect county property taxes?
First, a little background. In early May, the North Codorus Township tax collector, Teena Hoy, submitted her resignation. It had been her job to collect both township and county property taxes. The Spring Grove Area School District was responsible for collecting its own property taxes in the township.
Anyway, the township started looking for a replacement for Hoy almost immediately.
In the meantime, however, the county sent a letter to township officials saying York County Treasurer Barb Bair would begin collecting the county's portion of the property tax right away.
It made sense to do it that way, President Commissioner Steve Chronister said, because it would save county taxpayers around $11,000 per year in collection fees to have the county staff do the job.
In fact, Chronister said, if the county took over collection of county property taxes from all 72 municipalities in York County, the savings to taxpayers would be well over $1 million.
But North Codorus Township officials didn't see it that way. Without having to use too much imagination, one could almost sense the three township supervisors -- Chairman Nelson Brenneman, Dennis Luckenbaugh and Tanya Crawford -- lining up to spread their scent along the township property lines, daring county officials to step one toe over the line.
They did not appreciate the county's attempted "encroachment" into township affairs.
It was all about municipal sovereignty, they said, and they didn't want the Big Bad Wolf -- county government -- sticking its nose where it didn't belong.
So township lawyer William Poole Jr. attended the county commissioners' meeting last week to advise anyone who would listen of the township's intent to take the matter to court, if necessary, to protect its interests.
"We just don't think the county has the power to do what it's doing," Poole said.
Ahhh, there you have it. The statement made perfectly clear the issue at hand -- power and the wielding of it. North Codorus Township has it -- in whatever minor form -- and it didn't intend to give it up without a fight.
This dispute had nothing to do with collecting taxes. Rest assured of that.
It easily could have turned into a piddling contest of monumental proportions, except for the willingness of the county commissioners to do what was necessary to avoid spending taxpayer funds in a court fight that would not have served the best interests of taxpayers on either side.
So county commissioners waved the white flag and stepped aside. If North Codorus Township wanted to collect county property taxes, then so be it.
Even if it would cost taxpayers more money to have it done that way.
County commissioners took the highest of high roads in this matter, refusing to be sucked into a court fight between municipalities that does nothing but devour taxpayer dollars on both sides and make lawyers rich.
Chronister summed it up well by saying he didn't want to be the "Goliath" in the fight, that the potential for litigation wasn't "worth it."
I appreciate that approach.
Yes, there are times to dig in one's heels and fight for the principle of the thing.
There also are times to avoid the unnecessary fight, even if it bruises the ego to do it.
On the commissioners' side, this was never about egos or holding onto power, it was about doing the best thing for taxpayers.
For once, cooler heads prevailed in a situation that could have gotten ugly.
And those heads sat on the shoulders of York County's commissioners.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.