CF Board cuts tax collector’s pay

In a special meeting that was at times contentious, Chadds Ford Township supervisors voted to reduce the compensation for the elected tax collector. The reduced salary goes into effect next year.

The current compensation package of around $16,000 per year — based on a two-tiered percentage of 5 percent for the first $220,000 collected and 2.5 percent of anything beyond — will be reduced to about $12,500.

The new package is based on a per parcel rate instead of the current percentage of assessment. Beginning in 2014, the elected tax collector will be paid $4.25 per tax bill, $4.50 for an interim bill and $4.50 for a December late fee.

While the vote was unanimous, 3-0, it took several motions with different figures before the supervisors came to an agreement. At least four different proposals were offered.

The meeting was held at 5 p.m. on Jan. 24. According to state law, municipalities are required to pass a resolution by the middle of February every four years if they are going to change the compensation. The current tax collector four-year term ends the end of this year.

The bulk of the resident comments centered on a concern that qualified people would not want the job of tax collector if pay would be reduced. Others were fearful that the supervisors would opt to outsource the task to a tax collection agency.

By state law, however, only an elected tax collector can choose to outsource the job.

As township solicitor Hugh Donaghue said, “Only the tax collector can deputize a person or agency” to do the job.

Resident Noelle Barbone called into question how supervisors valued the position.

“By cutting salary you’ll diminish the value of the position. It looks like a political maneuver,” she said.

Samantha Reiner, a Chadds Ford resident who is also the township manager in Edgmont Township, cautioned the supervisors.

“Don’t whittle away the compensation to the point where a good tax collector goes away,” Reiner said.

The tax collector — currently Valerie Hoxter — is responsible for tracking and collecting all the real estate property taxes. The bank account used is in the tax collector’s name and tax checks are made payable to the collector. However, the tax collector can only write checks payable to the township, Hoxter said.

Donaghue added that the tax collector faces legal liability if anything happens to those tax dollars.

At one point during the meeting, Donaghue and former tax collector Bruce Prabel exchanged words regarding the tax collector law itself.

At issue was an interpretation. Prabel argued that the law says a tax collector had to be paid more for interim bills than for the initial bill.

Donaghue reacted to what he thought was an implication that the board was doing something wrong. He later apologized for the reaction and modified the motion to reflect Prabel’s interpretation, giving the tax collector a fee of $4.50 for interim bills, more than the $4.25 fee for the initial bill.

They also exchanged words over a 2012 state Supreme Court decision that Prabel said prevented a municipality from decreasing a tax collector’s compensation to the point that the collector could not fulfill the legal requirements of the position.

Despite the change in pay, Hoxter said after the meeting that she wants to remain as tax collector.

“I look forward to continuing to serve my neighbors as tax collector in Chadds Ford Township, and plan to run for the office again in the upcoming election. While I was disappointed with the process by which the board came to their conclusion at the special meeting,I consider it a privilege to serve my community and will continue to do so.”

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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