Allentown
54° F
Overcast
Overcast

Palisades School District investigating homes up for sheriff's sale

By Stephen Althouse, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 18 2013 10:39:09 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 19 2013 11:36:40 AM CDT

While Wednesday night's Palisades School District board of directors meeting was light on action items it wasn't devoid of intriguing discussions.

Two directors - Stephen Kunkel and Bernadette Decker - questioned the district's fiscal administrators on why there was, in their view, a lack of information on district residents whose homes were put up for sheriff's sale for failing to pay their taxes.

The comments stemmed from a fiscal committee report which revealed that seven homes had to be foreclosed on for failing to pay their school taxes.

"I believe that no tax should make anyone homeless," said Decker.

A district official explained how the collection agency - Portnoff Law Associates - sends out eight written notices before putting a home up for sheriff's sale, with one of the notices sent as certified mail. However, both Kunkel and Decker believed the district did not have enough information on the delinquent taxpayers to ascertain trends, and whether or not the individual homeowners had a legitimate hardship.

"One of the reasons we went with Portnoff was that we would have some more discretion, control and input," said Kunkel into the process of collecting back taxes.

Both Kunkel and Decker noted that the sustained economic downturn has proven to be challenging for many district residents and suggested additional information, such as the number of parcels that have gone to foreclosure over the last five years and how many years prior to becoming delinquent had the residents made their payments.

Director James Hallowell added that while it "may sound cruel" the district was "not in the business of welfare" and that taxes not paid by residents had to in essence be made up by the entire community.

Kunkel and Decker did not argue the point, but rather indicated that not enough information was known to them on such an important topic as to find if there was in fact a legitimate reason for the number of sheriff's sales or if the district was dealing with, as Decker succinctly put it, "deadbeats" who simply decided it would be in their best interest to skip paying their taxes.

President Michael Lynch agree with Kunkel and Decker.

"It would be interesting to know the history of the cases," Lynch said.

District officials indicated that information would be ascertained within their ability to obtain it by the next fiscal committee meeting.

In other news, the directors heard a presentation and were shown a video concerning texting while driving. In an effort to cut down on this issue among the district's students who are of age to operate a motor vehicle, there will be a day of pledge to abstain answering texts while behind the wheel Thursday at the high school.

Speaking of automobile crashes caused by distracted drivers, director Robert Musantry said answering texts while you're driving is not only unwarranted, but could be deadly.

"It's a horrible thing after the fact," he said.