County giving tax collectors 'incentive-based' raise

David Weissman
  • York County commissioners adopted an ordinance to offer tax collectors incentive-based raises.
  • If collectors follow all guidelines, each would receive 47 cents more per bill collected.
  • Collectors argue the new compensation system amounts to a penalty system; they might bring the issue to court.

York County commissioners voted Wednesday to give county tax collectors a raise for the first time in at least 20 years, but the collectors expressed disappointment with the deal.

In this file photo, York County commissioners, from left, Chris Reilly, Susan Byrnes and Doug Hoke hold their weekly meeting at William Penn Senior High School in York City, Wednesday, April 20, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

County officials billed the ordinance as an incentive-based raise, but collectors argued during an hours-long meeting that the changes to the compensation program amount more to a penalty system.

The deadline for the county to alter its compensation formula to the collectors is Feb. 14, which is before the next scheduled commissioners' meeting. After that date, the compensation levels are set for 2018 through 2021, according to county solicitor Glenn Smith.

Currently, the county pays tax collectors 75 cents per bill sent and $2.14 per payment collected.

The original ordinance being considered by the commissioners would reduce those compensations to 6 cents per bill sent — the amount York Mail Service would charge for the service — and $1.15 per payment collected, while adding $1.30 per payment remitted to the county on time, 10 cents apiece for providing electronic details regarding each taxpayer's county, municipal and school payments, 15 cents per bill submitted using the county-provided tax collection software and 30 cents per account listed on a tax duplicate or an electronic lien list.

Concession: One main point of contention was the incentive to use the county's tax collection software.

Northeastern votes to give tax collectors a raise

Lee Hoffheins, president of the York County Tax Collectors Association, said 29 of the association's 61 members collect for municipalities that require per capita data, which the county's system does not allow and which would disqualify them from receiving that compensation.

A per capita tax is applied to all adult residents in a municipality, as opposed to just those required to pay property taxes, and county Treasurer Barbara Bair said the system is not capable of accepting that information.

Rhonda Harpster, a tax collector for Franklin Township and Franklintown, suggested that officials move that 15 cents to a different compensation rate to ensure that all collectors could receive it.

Commissioners decided to recess into an executive session, which lasted about 20 minutes, to discuss Harpster's proposal. They eventually amended the ordinance to add that 15 cents onto the per payment collected on time, bringing it to $1.45 each, while still offering 10 cents per bill submitted using the county-provided software.

The amended ordinance was unanimously approved, but Hoffheins said afterward that he was still disappointed, despite the concession.

Dave Gentzler, manager for East Manchester Township, said early in the meeting that he believed if commissioners passed the ordinance, the issue could wind up in court.

Hoffheins said before the final vote that Gentzler's opinion does not represent the association, but he said afterward that taking the grievances to court might be the association's only recourse.

The only raises the tax collectors have received from the county during the past 20 years have been court-ordered, Hoffheins said, though he added that his association hasn't necessarily had difficulty recruiting new collectors when needed.

"If they would have just given us a raise, they wouldn't have had to do this incentive program," he said, pointing out that county employees recently received a 3 percent raise.

Incentives: County administrator Mark Derr said the tax collectors would receive 47 cents more per bill if they take advantage of all the incentives. The county is able to offer that raise by saving approximately $120,000 by contracting with York Mail Service to deliver the tax bills.

If bills are mailed back to tax collectors for any reason, the county will pay them 75 cents per bill to resend them, Derr added.

Commissioner Chris Reilly said that, after raising the county tax rate for two consecutive years, he wanted to make sure any raises given to collectors increased efficiency and didn't cost taxpayers.

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Derr said most collectors submit their information to the county in an accurate and timely manner, but there have been some collectors who have caused issues.

Bair said her office spends an "exorbitant" amount of time dealing with issues caused by collectors not doing their jobs correctly. The extra work costs taxpayers in the form of overtime costs, she said, and the incentive program would aim to reduce that extra work by encouraging collectors to submit information electronically.

Tax collectors present at the meeting argued that there are numerous issues with the new compensation program, and it has led to hard feelings.

Kathy Emswiler, a tax collector for East Manchester Township for 25 years, said no other taxing authority — collectors also receive payment from municipalities and school districts — makes stipulations when granting raises.

"Never before have I felt so unappreciated and insulted than by this proposal," she said.

— Reach David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.