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Last updated: May 21. 2014 12:28AM - 1771 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com



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Northeast Revenue Service LLC will continue overseeing Luzerne County’s tax claim office through 2017 if County Council approves a contract recommended by the administration.


The Wilkes-Barre-based company has been running the office and back-tax auctions since May 2010, when previous county officials opted to privatize the operation to reduce general-fund operating expenses and improve collections.


Northeast Revenue has been credited with turning around the office, which had been criticized for allowing some politically connected defaulters to keep their properties out of auctions with no legal justification.


Properties are supposed to be auctioned if taxes are unpaid for two years unless a property owner has an active bankruptcy case, is on a repayment plan or convinces a judge to grant more time.


Northeast Revenue enforces uniform requirements on installment payments and holds auctions more frequently in an attempt to speed up payments or get properties sold, officials say. The company also aggressively challenges bankruptcies and court filings that keep properties out of sales, officials say.


Two other companies submitted proposals to handle the work, and the administration determined Northeast Revenue’s submission was most beneficial to the county, said county Manager Robert Lawton.


County Council is set to review the contract at Thursday’s work session, with a possible vote at the May 27 council meeting.


Northeast Revenue is proposing keeping the same payment structure.


The company receives a 5 percent penalty added to overdue school and municipal taxes collected by the county. The county will continue to receive its 5 percent penalty on delinquent county taxes.


Northeast Revenue also will pay for insurance coverage on tax claim operations.


The company also will continue renting the county tax claim office space on the first floor of the county courthouse in Wilkes-Barre. Prior county officials pushed for the rental to generate revenue for the county, prevent public confusion and keep tax claim close to other county offices that often work with tax claim.


With the new proposed contract, Northeast Revenue agreed to pay the county at least $66,000 per year to rent the courthouse space.


Northeast owner John Rodgers said he is “honored” the county wants to retain his company’s services.


In addition to handling sales and processing payments, the office must publicly advertise sales, conduct title searches and serve notices to delinquent property owners.


“When we took over, there were a lot of problems, and we feel pretty good about what we’ve done. If council is willing to put faith in us, we’d like to continue to streamline further and use more technology to give county residents the best possible service,” Rodgers said.


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