An old adage among litigation attorneys is that when the facts are on your side, you pound the facts, when the law is on your side, you pound the law and when neither is on your side, you pound the table.
When Portnoff's clients in Carbon County directed it to provide all balance information in its possession to the County Tax Claim Bureau, it did so. At the beginning of every month, Portnoff, as directed, sends a report of payments received the preceding month and a check for commissions related to those payments. No other information has ever been requested of Portnoff.
It is curious why the County would authorize an audit costing up to $60,000 when School Districts are already required by the State to maintain delinquent tax balance information. Each year Portnoff is audited by its School District clients to make sure that the figures reconcile. To date, there has never been any claim by any taxing district or property owner that the tax balance information is incorrect.
The real reason behind this claim is that the County wants money from the School Districts for a claim without legal precedent: commissions on tax payments collected by third party collectors dating back to 2002. Revenue from the county Tax Claim Bureaus is a big ticket item, far exceeding the modest cost of running the office. The commission money into the County coffers avoids the need for any increase in County taxes. This source of County revenue redirects funds from the budgets of School Districts, already facing the challenge of maintaining educational programs on diminishing revenue. School Board members are left no option other than to eliminate those programs, increase property taxes, or both.
Considering the state of today's economy and the significant economic stress on all school districts and municipalities, the County's demand for payment by the school districts for commissions related to the collection by third parties of prior year's taxes, for which it did no work, is legally unprecedented and morally reprehensible.
Watch the table banging continue.
Very truly yours,
PORTNOFF LAWASSOCIATES, LTD.
MICHELLE R. PORTNOFF, ESQUIRE