Districts, municipalities to change tax collector

| Friday, Aug. 3, 2012, 1:02 a.m.

The Armstrong County tax committee, made up of representatives from each of the county's 45 municipalities and the three school districts with business offices in the county, Armstrong, Leechburg and Apollo-Ridge, voted unanimously on July 26 to end ties with the company that collects earned income taxes from workers for each government body.

The committee is notifying Central Tax Bureau, based in Bridgeville, that it plans to end its contract.

Central Tax Bureau has been under fire for not getting the millions of tax dollars it collected over to municipalities and school districts in counties around the state.

“There are a lot of issues out there,” said Kittanning Township Supervisor Bob Conklin, who serves as township secretary, the township's representative on the tax committee and the committee's chairman. “There are millions of dollars that are not getting distributed. A lot of municipalities are concerned.”

No one at Central Tax Bureau could be reached for comment. A representative at the local office in Kittanning directed calls to the corporate office.

Repeated calls to all of the departments on the company's phone directory, including to customer service and their corporate office, were either busy or rang unanswered on Thursday.

The committee meets four times a year. Conklin said he was told that at the last regular meeting, which he was unable to attend, the panel discussed how to legally change the county's tax collecting company.

The committee decided to go with Berkheimer Tax Administrator of Pittsburgh as soon as the committee can end its contract with Central Tax, he said.

“Our solicitor is handling it,” Conklin said. “We will change as soon as the contract can be broken or ends at the end of the year. If we can get out earlier, we will. Berkheimer is up to speed with (state tax law) and ready to take on other counties.”

Conklin said a few Armstrong County municipalities are hurting for the late tax revenues. He did not name any of them.

“A few have expressed concerns,” he said. “It seems the problem is with the municipalities that were not former clients of Central Tax. The former ones seem to be OK.”

Conklin said his municipality, Kittanning Township, has been a long-time client of Central Tax and has been slowly getting its tax payments.

In Ford City which had already been a client of Central Tax before the new law, tax revenues have been coming in, according to borough officials.

Mayor Marc Mantini is Ford City's representative on the committee. He did not attend the meeting, and borough Secretary Lisa Bittner went as the borough's alternate representative. She informed council of the committee's actions.

“I'll go with whatever the committee says,” borough council President Lou Vergari said. “We've been receiving our regular allotments, I'm told.”

The Armstrong committee selected Central Tax, which already did business with many of the county's municipal governments and the Armstrong School District, when the state legislature passed Act 32 in 2008 which then became effective in January.

Under the law, which was meant to simplify the collection process, each county hired a company to collect and distribute its earned income taxes.

“The new law went into effect and the whole bottom fell out (for Central Tax),” Conklin said. “It's not a malicious thing. The management just wasn't there. I'm grateful we're still getting money in our township.”

Dennis Wolfe, who retired last month as a Gilpin supervisor, was Gilpin's representative on the committee.

“I was not happy with the way this committee conducted their business in selecting Central Tax in the first place,” Wolfe said.

Some of the representatives lobbied for Central Tax because they already did business with the company, Wolfe said. They had made up their minds ahead of time to hire Central Tax and did not listen to other recommendations, he said.

“The committee dropped the ball when they hired Central Tax,” Wolfe said. “Nothing bad against Centax. They (Centax) just got overwhelmed.”

Mitch Fryer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or mfryer@tribweb.com.

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