KITTANNING – Unhappy with an upcoming cut in their paychecks, Armstrong County’s tax collectors have sued the county to have their pay rate restored.
In documents filed at the end of October at the Armstrong County Courthouse, the Armstrong County Tax Collectors Association, with association president and Mahoning Township tax collector Sandra Bright of Distant, argues that the reduction approved earlier this year by Armstrong County Commissioners Pat Fabian, Jason Renshaw and George Skamai “represents a dramatic decrease” which could slash the pay for tax collectors anywhere from 40 to 80 percent.
The commissioners took action to reduce the pay rate for tax collectors on Feb. 14, with the new rates taking effect in 2018 following the November 2017 general election in which all county tax collectors positions were up for election.
According to the lawsuit, the tax collectors previously received a compensation rate of 2.5 percent of the taxes they collected for the county. Under the new plan, that rate will change to a flat $4 pay for each tax billed collected.
“The $4 per paid bill rate represents an unreasonable rate of compensation and fails to adequately address the work and effort required for the elected tax collectors of the county to fulfill all of the duties of their elected office,” the lawsuit contends, calling the new rate a “grossly substandard wage, under which the elected tax collectors of Armstrong County are unable to recapture the time and expense invested in collecting taxes for the county.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the county is “prohibited from setting a compensation rate that is unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious,” and is also prohibited from setting a pay rate that “deprives the tax collectors the ability to perform the duties of their elected positions.”
The lawsuit asks the court to void the commissioners’ ordinance which set the new pay rates, and to restore the prior ordinance and pay rate of 2.5 percent.
The tax collectors are represented in the case by the Doylestown law firm of Eastburn and Gray, PC.
The commissioners contend that their actions to reduce the pay are within their rights, and that they spent considerable time researching the pay rate of tax collectors in other counties, settling on the state average for compensation.
“We did everything according to the law,” Skamai said, noting that the new pay rate is in excess of the average for sixth class counties similar to Armstrong County.
The commissioners also noted that the pay rate was set well in advance of the 2017 elections, giving candidates the chance to run for the office with full knowledge of what the rate will be during their terms as tax collectors.