Thursday, December 27, 2012


Somewhere down the line the Don Wilkenson Agency got renamed Centax after the passage of Act 32 in 2009 which mandated that each county hire a single tax collector for it’s numerous municipalities by 2012. That seemed sensible enough until millions of dollars came up missing and Centax-Wilkenson went belly up. This was a top down mandate from Harrisburg with little input from the local municipalities and wasn't even tested in a few counties to see how it would work before imposing it on the whole state.

Many local governments in Luzerne County and across Pennsylvania are now short of cash because they have not received the taxes owed to them that were collected by Centax but have disappeared into to some sort of legal limbo black hole. Wilkes-Barre is owed $1.9 million and the locals are howling because cuts to services and a big tax increase to make up for the shortfall. Small towns like Butler Twp. are owed $50,000 and even that low tax haven of Wilkes-Barre Township had to pass a tax increase because they were burned for $500,000.

They tell us that Berkheimer has taken over from Wilkenson and will make everybody whole somehow, someway, someday.

I've never understood why there there is this Balkanized tax collection system for local governments and the point of Act 32 was to consolidate some of it. Real Estate taxes are collected by local Tax Collectors which is an anachronism and private companies are hired to performed what is a government function. In  this day of technology  it couldn't be that hard for the taxing bodies to send out a bill with a return envelope or an option to pay online. Most jurisdictions could absorb the workload or hire a clerk or two to handle it without paying an outside company.

The big question is where did the money go?  In a story by Elizabeth Skrapkis in the CV the lawyer representing Wilkenson wants the records destroyed because there is no money to pay for storage. To paraphrase the Bard "Something is rotten in the state of Pennsylvania."

At least $9 million is missing in Luzerne County and much more across the state, where the hell is the Attorney General and/or the Auditor General in this?

I'm not one to make unfounded accusations unlike the commenter's  on the TL & CV websites but this sounds like an attempt to destroy evidence. 

Mr. Cordaro please convince me that I'm wrong.


Karla said...

More like many things are rotten in PA. And how is it even possible that in the digital age there is no online pay option? I know we live on the Appalachian Trail but it's no longer an excuse to be backwards.

Stephen Albert said...

I believe that Berkheimer is responsible for Scranton/Lackawanna County, so you can do the math in terms of "cash getting to cash-strapped municipalities"...of course in the case Scranton no one can actually tell you how much is actually owed to the city. That's a different post for a different day.

Anyway, one would need to be mentally handicapped to believe that destroying tax records in NEPA makes any sense what so ever. No so much "records" as "evidence".

Great post Gort...