The Lehigh Township Board of Supervisors reached a consensus regarding the mailing of tax bills at their Jan. 9 meeting, resolving an area of concern that the board faced at their last few meetings.
The board passed a motion to compensate township tax collector Mary Louise Trexler a fixed rate of $3,718 to combine and stuff tax bills—per capita and real estate taxes—pending Township Solicitor David Backenstoe’s research of whether it is legal to compensate beyond the collector’s set salary.
The motion comes after Trexler told the township in 2017 that she would not be sending and stuffing the tax bills, according to minutes from the board’s Dec. 12 meeting. Trexler said she was told that she is not required to collect per capita taxes or stuff the envelopes, as she has done in the past.
“I’m not obligated to stuff the bills,” Trexler said. “That was something I just did.”
The board explored having Berkheimer Tax Innovations stuff and send the envelopes, but since the company could not consolidate the bills, the board dismissed that option. That left them to either compensate Trexler for the service or have office staff carry it out.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Darryl Snover voiced concern about whether the township is legally allowed to compensate Trexler in addition to her salary.
“If we entertain the notion of additional compensation for the tax collector for something that was traditionally done in the past, does that constitute a change in the compensation that would fall outside of what the law would allow?” Snover asked.
Backenstoe said he didn’t have a concrete answer and would have to find out what is allowed by law. He also said the situation involved two different issues, the collection of per capita taxes and the physical stuffing of the envelopes.
“To my knowledge, every tax collector in the area stuffs them. I’ve never heard of a tax collector not stuffing them.” Backenstoe said. “I will tell you as I sit here tonight, I don’t know if there’s a regulation that requires the tax collector to stuff the envelope.”
However, Backenstoe said he is confident that the township’s tax collector is required to collect per capita taxes, saying that the ordinance is “clear on its face” that Trexler must collect per capita taxes by law, despite her being told otherwise.
“The law is pretty clear that a township tax collector has a statutory duty to collect occupational and per capita taxes levied and assessed by a municipal entity when it’s done so by ordinance,” Backenstoe said.
Backenstoe said the township set a $5 per capita tax in 1966 by ordinance requiring the tax to be paid to the elected township tax collector. In addition, Backenstoe said a 1999 amendment to the ordinance further clarifies that the elected tax collector must collect the township’s per capita tax.
The motion that was passed is dependent on whether the township is legally allowed to further compensate Trexler beyond her set salary.