Two Penn Forest Township supervisors recently met with a handful of area residents to urge them to voice their support of an equal vote for the county tax collection committees.
During a brief press conference Alan Katz, a voting delegate of the Carbon County Tax Collection Committee; and Paul Montemuro, Penn Forest's alternate; talked about their work in getting House Bill 2412 introduced. House Bill 2412, if passed, would amend Act 32 and eliminate the weighted vote system currently in place in the tax collection committee. The weighted vote system is based on a combination of the amount of revenue the municipality or school district collects and its population, in proportion to the revenues collected.
If the bill passes, the amendment states that "the vote shall no longer be weighted. All votes shall be determined by a majority vote of delegates present and each vote cast by a delegate shall equal one vote. If a tax collection committee has adopted bylaws providing for a weighted vote (which Carbon County's Tax Collection Committee voted in favor of in March), the bylaws shall be amended to comply with this paragraph."
Katz explained that the pair have been meeting with numerous state officials about the need to change the act.
According to Katz, the system is flawed and needs to be changed.
"The weighted vote isn't fair to townships or boroughs that make up this committee," he said. "We (townships and boroughs) want to have an equal say."
Montemuro added that legislators and the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors are in support of the bill and they expect the change to be made by the end of the year.
He explained that in smaller municipalities, the earned income tax, which will be collected through the committee starting in 2012, is their lifeline.
"Smaller townships need their earned income taxes to pay the bills," he said, adding that in some cases the earned income tax received is 90 percent of the total income a municipality operates on.
Currently, Montemuro stated, under the weighted vote, four school districts Panther Valley, Lehighton, Palmerton, and Jim Thorpe control a large portion of the vote and when the money collected will be distributed.
"We want the power back in the hands of the townships," Montemuro said.
Katz and Montemuro urged residents to send letters and e-mails to state Rep. David Levdansky, majority chairman of the House finance committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 127 Irvis Office Building, Harriburg, PA 17120-2039.
Katz asks that anyone who sends a letter regarding House Bill 2412 to carbon copy him at email@example.com.
The pair is also extending an invitation to PSATS and all other interested townships to join Penn Forest Township at their meeting with Rep. Levdansky on Tuesday.
The county tax collection committee was formed because of Act 32 of 2008, which amends the Local Tax Enabling Act.
Under Act 32, counties are now required to form a countywide collection committee and delegate one tax collector who will be responsible for the collection of earned income tax. Act 32 takes effect in 2012.
This new law states that this reduction in the amount of earned income tax collectors will provide for quicker money turnarounds, which means municipalities and school districts will get paid sooner.
The Carbon County Tax Collection Committee members include delegates from Jim Thorpe, Kidder Township, Penn Forest Township, East Penn Township, Franklin Township, Lehighton, Mahoning Township, Parryville, Weissport, Bowmanstown, Lower Towamensing Township, Palmerton, Towamensing Township, Lansford, Nesquehoning, Summit Hill, Coaldale, East Side, Lausanne Township, Lehigh Township, Packer Township, and Weatherly; as well as Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Palmerton, Panther Valley and Weatherly school districts.
More information on Act 32 can be found at www.act32info.com.
The next scheduled meeting of the tax collection committee is May 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the LGI room at Jim Thorpe Area High School.