If the Luzerne County Treasurer’s Office starts collecting all county taxes next year as planned, property owners will have a multitude of options to pay, county Manager Robert Lawton told council Tuesday.
A council majority supported the switch to in-house collection, arguing the county will save an estimated $300,000 and have greater control over receipts by ending reliance on 69 elected collectors.
The Luzerne County Tax Collectors Association is challenging the legality of the decision and has asked a judge to force the county to continue using the services of elected collectors next year. The county matter has no bearing on elected collectors’ involvement in receiving school and municipal property tax payments.
Lawton said the Treasurer’s Office is developing a system allowing property owners to pay county taxes online with a credit card, debit card or electronic check.
The office will provide evening hours at least one day per week during rebate and face periods and at the end of December.
The two-month rebate period allows property owners to receive a 2 percent discount before taxes are owed at the full amount, or face value, for another two-month period. A 10 percent penalty is then added to tax bills paid before the end of the year.
For example, someone who owes $500 can pay $490 in rebate, $500 in face or $550 in penalty.
If county tax bills are issued Jan. 21 as expected, the rebate period will run through March 21, and the face period would end May 21, said county Treasurer’s Office Manager/Tax Administrator Laura Beers.
In addition to collections at the county Treasurer’s Office on the first floor of the courthouse in Wilkes-Barre, the office will accept payment at senior centers outside the immediate Wilkes-Barre area and a satellite office in space used by county veteran affairs in the county-owned Broad Street Exchange building at 100 W. Broad St. in Hazleton.
The schedule for those locations hasn’t been set.
The office also will receive payments on Saturdays during the rebate and face periods on the first floor of the county’s Penn Place Building at the corner of Market Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Taxpayers will be permitted to park in the Penn Place lot on these Saturdays. A drop-off box also will be available at Penn Place for check and money order payments during county business hours.
Lawton said he expects to add three clerical workers to handle the increased work, and the $300,000 estimated savings will be segregated so council can decide the best use for the money.
Beers said the plan addresses concerns about the locations and times county staff will be available to serve taxpayers in person while offering the 24-hour convenience of online payment.
“The Treasurer’s Office is confident in its ability to effectively collect all county property taxes beginning in 2014,” Beers said. “We will be prepared to assume this major responsibility, having developed a multifaceted strategy for tax season implementation.”