As local townships struggle to find candidates to fill their open tax collection positions, collecting taxes seems to be unappealing as paying them.
The problem became more acute last week as the Adams County Board of Commissioners accepted the resignation of tax collectors from Hamiltonban Township and Bendersville Borough .
“Small municipalities are having a problem getting people to step up to be tax collectors,” said Commissioner Randy Phiel.
When a municipality loses a tax collector, it must either find someone to serve for the remainder of the elected position, receive tax collection services from the county, or ask a neighboring township or borough to help. The county treasurer’s office currently assists Abbottstown and Arendtsville boroughs in that function.
“It is a complex job,” said Chrissy Redding, Adams County Treasurer and former tax collector for Straban Township. “The revenue is not in the pot, so to speak, to compensate for the time spent,” she added, “especially in the smaller jurisdictions.”
Redding said each jurisdiction might differ in how it compensates tax collectors, but while she was in Straban, she received 5% of what was collected, in addition to other payments from the county.
Tax collectors are elected for four-year terms, but anyone elected this year in the mid-term elections would serve just two years. First-time tax collectors must go through a background check, attend a class, and receive training on the software program.
Redding said she appreciates the hard work of a tax collector and enjoyed the job. “The gratitude and opportunity to assist someone was a way to give back to my community. “When I bid farewell to tax collecting, that was a tearful moment,” she said.
Tax collectors are not responsible for retrieving delinquent taxes. When the various tax seasons are closed, the reconciled lists are turned over to the counties or school districts for collection.
The commissioner’s approved an agreement with JP Harris Associates, LLC of Mechanicsburg, PA, to collect delinquent county per capita taxes. The three-year agreement is at no cost to the county since the delinquent taxpayer pays vendor feeds to the tax collection firm.
Commissioner James Martin reminded county residents to try to avoid delinquent tax payments, which can result in a hefty fine.
Therapy dogs will comfort children
The county will begin offering therapy dogs for Adams County Children and Youth Services clients and their families to help relieve stress during court days. The program will be provided by Keystone Pet Enhanced Therapy Services (KPETS), a non-profit organization from Lancaster whose volunteer teams promote well-being by sharing the power of human-animal interactions.
“We are pretty early in the planning stages,” said Sarah Finkey, Administrator for Adams County Children and Youth Services, adding that they hope to have the program in operation by spring. “We’ve heard wonderful things about the program. Waiting to appear in court can be very stressful for families, and the dogs can be very calming.” Finkey said they plan to use the volunteers and their pets two days a month during juvenile court. “We’re excited about the program.”
Sarah Graham, a board member, volunteer, trainer, and evaluator with KPETS, explained that the organization works with children and families waiting outside the courtroom before their court appearance.
Graham recalled working with a young child who waiting to testify. When the child returned from the courtroom, they dove under the table where Graham and her dog were sitting. So Graham and her dog got under the table with them, and the child sat quietly petting the dog. “We are there to assist the child and the family as they go through a difficult time,” she said.
Helping out in courtrooms is only one aspect of what the program does. In addition, they offer services to hospitals, schools, nursing homes, hospice centers, senior centers, rehabilitation and retirement communities, counseling centers, libraries, and cancer centers.
Graham said there was scientific research supporting the effectiveness of the program. “Our motto is ‘touching lives, warming hearts; we make use of that human-animal bond,” she said.
Individuals who would like more information can contact info@KPETS.org.
Ag Land Preservation Matching Funds
Ag Land Preservation manager Ellen Dayhoff announced a $250,000 gift from an anonymous donor, which is part of the county’s 2023 agricultural preservation matching funds of $1,114,000. Dayhoff said it was the first time the program received such a large donation.
The county matching funds, in addition to 2022 Clean and Green interest, totals nearly $1,200,000. This amount will be matched and perhaps increased. “We usually get a one-to-one match or sometimes more than one,” said Dayhoff.
The county land preservation program has resulted in nearly 24,000 acres of farmland in Adams County preserved for agricultural or farm purposes since it began in 1989. Landowners apply to the program and are paid per acre based on an appraisal.
“We receive more applications than we can service,” said Dayhoff, who added the program results in the preservation of between 800 to 1000 acres per year.
The next Commissioner’s Meeting will be Feb. 8 at 9:00 a.m. in the county courthouse.
Judith Cameron Seniura is a freelance reporter. She began her journalism career in the early ‘70s and has written for newspapers, magazines, and other media in Ontario, Canada, Alaska, Michigan, Nebraska, San Antonio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.