New tax rules leave Unionville caught between state, county laws

New county regulation would force schools, local towns to ignore state law
By Mike McGann, Editor,

New tax debt reporting rules by Chester County could force local towns and school districts to violate state laws.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — Unionville school officials are concerned about new rules by Chester County that could force the district to be in violation of state laws regarding tax collection and property liens in 2012.

District business manager Robert Cochran that the Chester County Commissioners recently passed a resolution changing the date that municipalities and school districts have to submit property tax information to the — data on which property owners are current. Previously, that date was Jan. 15, but now the date has been changed to Jan. 5.

While 10 days might not seem like a lot of difference, because school districts such as Unionville are required by the state to accept payment on taxes postmarked by Dec. 31 — as long as those payments come in the form of cash or money orders. While that would make it tight under the best of calendar circumstances, as in a typical year such mail might not arrive until Jan. 3, the calendar in 2011 makes it even more difficult. In 2011, Dec. 31 is a Saturday. That means that Monday, Jan. 2, 2012 will be a postal holiday — meaning the earliest something mailed on Dec. 31 could arrive is Jan. 3, with deliveries likely the next couple of days, up to and beyond the county’s new deadline of Jan. 5.

The district business office needs some time to reconcile any such payments, as well, Cochran said, making the county’s new deadline virtually impossible to meet without violating state law — and potentially putting liens on properties that have had their taxes fully paid by the deadline.

The County Commissioners approved the changes at their meeting of Oct. 6. When the commissioners approved the resolution, Chester County Finance Director Denny Bolton said the move was being made to allow property owners in arrears to settle their liens during the month of January. Previously, no settlements were allowed, and property owners were subject a 1% penalty while waiting for February.

“I wonder why we didn’t do it this way to begin with,” Commissioner Carol Aichele asked. Interestingly, Bolton, who served previously as business manager for the Owen J. Roberts School District told the commissioners he was unsure.

Cochran said he and other school business managers are asking for the county to rework the deadline and point out the state requirements they must comply with. Although Cochran said it be helpful for the school board to pass a resolution asking the commissioners for a change — say to the 10th of January — he said he would also look into what sort of enforcement teeth the state or the county have and could recommend deferring to whichever governmental body carries a bigger enforcement stick.

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