In a reversal of its Jan. 24 decision to hire a controversial Bucks County tax collection firm, the Panther Valley school board on Thursday agreed to have the Carbon County Tax Claim Bureau collect 2012 back property taxes.
The board in January had hired Portnoff Law Associates of Norristown. The firm was the center of a 2009 lawsuit that also involved then-board of Carbon County Commissioners Wayne Nothstein, William O'Gurek and Charles Getz, the county Tax Claim Bureau, and the school district.
According to the suit, the county asked for $323,000 in retroactive commission from the school district for delinquent tax collections from 2000 through 2006; as well as for auditing services used to complete county records, and for the return of all county tax records. Portnoff entered the suit by intervening on the school district's behalf.
Monroe County Judge Jerome P. Cheslock heard the case, and ruled in October 2012 that the district must turn over all tax records to the county, and pay the commission and other fees plus legal fees and costs. Cheslock also ruled that Portnoff could not collect the delinquent taxes.
The school district appealed the ruling, and on Jan. 10, Commonwealth Court Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt overturned a portion of Cheslock's ruling, giving Portnoff the right to collect the taxes. She also said the $223,000 in retroactive commission did not have to be paid to the county.
The commissioners have since appealed Leavitt's ruling to the state Supreme Court.
In related matters, the board approved compensation for its local tax collectors, but agreed to freeze the amount through 2016.
The board also agreed to allow business manager Kenneth Marx Jr. to file for back-end referendum exception from the state Department of Education for Special Education and pension costs. That would allow the district to increase the property tax above 2.1 mills to help pay for those expenses, but only if the voters agree.