York County Commissioners Wednesday voted to concede and let North Codorus Township appoint a tax collector to collect county property taxes from township residents. The decision came after the township's attorney publicly warned supervisors would be willing to take the issue to court.
The dust-up started early last month, after township tax collector Teena Hoy announced her resignation. While the township was seeking a replacement, the county sent North Codorus a letter saying York County Treasurer Barb Bair would begin collecting the county portion of tax bills.
President Commissioner Steve Chronister said the change would save county taxpayers about $11,000 per year in collection fees, with Bair and existing staff absorbing the workload.
Because Spring Grove Area School District already collects its own portion of the tax bills, the change meant the new tax collector would only be collecting for the North Codorus portion of the bills.
Township supervisors balked at the changed, and township solicitor William Poole Jr. sent a letter to county solicitor Mike Flannelly. What ensued was a difference in legal interpretation between the two men, with Flannelly citing law that allowed for the county to take over collection and Poole citing portions of the county code that call for specific conditions to be met under such a takeover scenario.
At the meeting: Poole and township manager Mark Derr then turned out at Wednesday morning's public commissioners meeting, with Poole recapping the situation and warning that supervisors felt the county was "encroaching" and they were "prepared to ask a court to resolve" the issue.
Their main gripe was that county seemed to be "imposing on the sovereignty of the municipality," Poole said. Also at issue was the confusion of having three tax collectors in one municipality, he said.
"We just don't think the county has the power to do what it's doing," Poole said after leaving the meeting.
After Poole and Derr left, commissioners revisited the issue at the end of the meeting. Chronister said he didn't want to be the "Goliath" in this scenario, and the arguing and potential for litigation wasn't "worth it."
He and Commissioner Chris Reilly voted to allow North Codorus to collect its own county taxes. Commissioner Doug Hoke voted "no," saying he thought the facts needed to be more carefully examined.
Bigger issue: Chronister said after the meeting that saving money for taxpayers is the heart of the issue. The state wants to legislate more "things" for the counties do to, but the state hasn't given the county the flexibility it needs to be able to save money.
He said the county saves money by collecting county taxes in a couple municipalities, but the savings would exceed $1 million per year if there were county-operated tax collections for all 72 municipalities. There's also a high turnover rate among local tax collectors, complicating collection.
"The state needs to change the archaic laws for tax collection," he said. "There are some places where they still have a pencil and eraser and three kids running around the house while they count money. It's outdated."
Poole said the county might disagree with the laws as they exist, but the existing rules are the ones that need to be used.
He said he was thankful for the commissioners' vote, even if it was only "in the spirit of cooperation."
The vote and the easy resolution of the problem proves his point, he said, that government on a small, local level is best.
Reached for comment after the meeting, Derr said he was happy with the vote.
"That's all the supervisors were looking for," he said. "The board felt the local tax collector would be able to serve the citizens better ... People won't have to write out separate checks."
Bair was at a convention for county treasurers and could not immediately be reached for comment.
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