Members of the Carbon County Tax Collection Committee met in mid-August to hear presentations from four firms that hope to win the county's earned income tax collection business.

The committee is made up of delegates from the five Carbon County school districts and its 23 municipalities. The committee is required under Act 32 to choose a single tax collection provider to handle the county's earned income taxes by Sept. 15. Currently, each municipality hires its own collector and splits the proceeds with the school system.

Kenneth Marx of the Panther Valley School District and assistant secretary for the committee heads up the RFP (Request for Proposal) subcommittee and was tasked with creating the RFP and the proposed contract for the single county tax collector.

In June, Marx presented the committee with four proposals that resulted from the RFP. He also provided a two-page handout that summarized the proposals and asked the committee to make a decision, but the group decided there wasn't sufficient information presented to do so. The vendors invited committee members to tour their offices in July, but only a couple of members had time to do so.

For the August meeting, representatives of the four companies were asked to make a 5-minute presentation to the committee and submit to 10-15 minutes of questions and answers. The four tax collection companies under consideration by the committee are Berkheimer and Associates of Bangor; Central Tax Bureau of Pennsylvania Inc., of Pittsburgh; JP Harris Associates of Mechanicsburg; and Capital Tax Collection Bureau of Harrisburg.

Each company made an appearance, providing information about their firms, how they operate, plans of investment of tax funds, the timing of distribution of funds, any litigation they are involved in, and other topics.

By the end of the meeting it was clear that the rate the tax collector would charge would be the primary determinant in the decision, despite a number of companies highlighting their ability to effectively collect delinquent taxes and even offering guarantees that they could collect more than their competitors (though it was not clear how this would be proven unless they lost the contract this year and won it for a future term).

Alan Katz, the delegate from Penn Forest Township, took a hard line during the Q&A sessions, pushing candidates to provide their rock bottom price for the work. While some complained that they weren't selling used cars, every company reduced their original bid during the meeting. At the end, prices ranged from 1.7 percent on the high side to below 1.5 percent with a multi-year contract.

Some members of the committee worried that certain vendors were not made aware that this was their final opportunity to offer their best deal. It was agreed that an e-mail would be sent to all four vendors to ask for their final-final offer. The committee will make its decision at its next meeting on Sept. 15.

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.

Only about 20 people attended the August meeting, but that was enough for a quorum because the delegate's vote weight is based on a weighted vote system created by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Act 32 takes effect in 2012. More information on the Act can be found atwww.act32info.com.