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Delinquent Taxes to Cost More in UPSD?
Written by Kelly Chandler, Staff Writer

        Delinquent taxpayers may soon be facing more fees from the Upper Perkiomen School District.

        The Upper Perkiomen School Board, during its first informational/workshop meeting last Thursday, weighed the pros and cons of charging delinquent taxpayers an additional 5 percent if they fail to pay district real estate taxes by Dec. 31 of each year.

        Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners began enforcing a 5 percent fee on delinquent taxes.  The county previously see-sawed on whether to require each district to use its services and whether to collect a 5 percent commission; however, now the county is pursuing that money from each district.

        Upper Perk utilizes Portnoff Law Associates, a third party, to collect its delinquent taxes and said the district would like to keep using the services of that company instead of the county, which has a track record of being unreliable with collection.  Portnoff earns income through delinquency fees and pays the county the 5 percent commission.

        Regardless of which collection agency each district uses, with the county now enforcing a 5 percent commission, each district is only getting 95 percent, instead of 100 percent, of delinquent tax money. A state tax law provision enables each district to charge up to a total of 105 percent. 

        District Business Administrator Sandy Kassel said many districts, including Pottsgrove and Upper Dublin last week, adopted a provision to collect the additional 5 percent. It could amount to an estimated $25,000-$30,000 for the district annually, she said. 

        The district collects about $600,000 in back taxes each year, officials said.

School Board Director Raeann Hofkin asked Kassel what percentage of delinquent taxes result from families who can’t meet their tax burden versus just late payers.

        Kassel said while there are some families who lose jobs, or are having a tough financial year, on many occasions those individuals get on payment plans with Portnoff and minimize fees.  Others, however, just don’t bother to pay on time and are serially late.

        There was a motion by Director Jeff Feirick to pass the resolution imposing the 5 percent fee. 

        “I’d like to see the bills go out.  The taxpayers are subsidizing this,” he said of the delinquencies. 

        But after a discussion, initiated by directors Margie Gehlhaus and Hofkin, about the fact that officials announced informational/workshop meetings would not be for voting, there was a consensus to table the issue until the regular board meeting Feb. 13.

        “There are going to be times because we have time restraints that we have to vote at these meetings,” Board President Bill Scott said.  “We are going to try not to vote.”

        Because of the February vote, delinquency notices will be about three weeks late, officials said.

        The board later roughed out the structure of its new committees and goals for those committees. Scott said the ideas presented were a “work in progress” and would be refined further until next month. In addition to new accountability, curriculum, healthcare and technology committees, representatives will also create a new negotiations committee.

        The accountability committee, under directors John Gehman and Feirick, will look to evaluate the substitute superintendent, administrators, teachers and the school board, as well as student success.

        The board developed a meeting evaluation document, available after board meetings for the public and board members, to help make sure meetings are productive and time effective.

        “We as a group feel we need to be evaluated,” Scott said.  “We want to make sure we’re doing what the public wants us to do.”

Feirick said the committee is also refining evaluation tools like an ethics hotline.  More details about the new committees and its goals will be released next month, officials said.

        The board also approved a telephone services agreement with Presidio for $35,076 a year to monitor and fix problems with telephone hardware.

        Budget meeting dates were announced and the public is encouraged to attend.  Dates are Tuesdays, March 4 and 8, April 1 and 22, May 6 and 27, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Education Center. 





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