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City officials hear update on business privilege tax collection



SHAMOKIN — The City of Shamokin is losing revenue due to inefficiencies in the collection of business privilege taxes.

That was the message expressed Monday night by Mark Schuster, chief executive officer for turnKey Taxes, of Warrendale, to Shamokin City Council as he advised officials on how to improve the tax collection process.

Schuster, who entered into a contract with the city in April 2016 to collect business privilege taxes, said old records show that there are 239 businesses in the city, but based on his data, he believes the total is between 400 and 425, including landlords.

“There are businesses within businesses and landlords are considered businesses too,” he said. “We are missing businesses due to a lack of communication because some business owners don’t know they are responsible for paying the tax. Every business should be paying the tax, but they aren’t. This is a problem throughout the state.”

Schuster said the business privilege tax is a tax on gross receipts.

He said, “What we need to accomplish are counts, dollars and variance. There is no cross referencing of business data between departments and the city has never collected the tax from landlords. There also is no process in place for new businesses.”

Schuster said the city needs to update its website to alert businesses of the tax, provide a link to the current collector and promote its businesses.

He said all business data including licenses and permits for contract work, vendor payments, refuse records, county property records and landlord/tenant registrations need to be researched to obtain a more accurate number of businesses in the city.

Council members agreed to heed Schuster’s advise to improve the business privilege tax collection rate.

In other business, Mayor William Milbrand, in response to an inquiry by mayoral candidate Joey Leschinskie, reported the city spent approximately $29,000 in 2016 for outside legal services to negotiate the police and non-uniformed contracts. As of February of this year, Milbrand said the city has spent approximately $6,800 in attorney fees to negotiate the police contract.

“The city spent approximately $36,000 on attorney fees to negotiate the police contract and have nothing to show for it,” Leschinskie said. “They are still in arbitration. It was a waste of money.”

Leschinskie also complained about a property owned by Robert Gilligbauer at Rock and Spurzheim streets that he described as a longtime “eyesore.” He claimed Gilligbauer is in violation of a city ordinance regarding abandoned vehicles, but believes city officials are leery of taking action against him since he won a lawsuit against the city several years ago.

Councilman Charlie Verano, director of streets and public improvements, thanked everyone for their assistance and cooperation with last month’s snowstorm that dumped approximately two feet of snow in the community.

He commended residents for their cooperation and patience, and street department employees, private contractors, police, firefighters and fire police for their work during and after the snowstorm.

Verano read a lengthy letter from Jennifer Seidel, of 621 E. Dewart St., who commended city officials and the street department for doing a fine job in clearing the snow.

Verano said the street sweeper will not run on Shamokin Street until at least the beginning of May due to excavation work.

Council granted permission to Coal Township VFW to hold its annual poppy sale from 7:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 13, at the corner of Eighth and Independence streets.

God’s Chuckwagon was authorized to use Claude Kehler Community Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 17, for a health fair.

Council granted permission to The Flower Tent to conduct business on the city’s Third Street lot from April 1 to the middle of June.

Council agreed to spend a maximum of $2,350 from the recreation account for a concert series at Claude Kehler Community Park.

An executive session was held at the end of the meeting to discuss a demolition contract for a property at Mount Carmel and East Commerce streets.

A moment of silence was held at the beginning of the meeting in honor of former longtime councilwoman Betsy Richardson, who passed away April 4. Richardson was the first woman elected to council.

Milbrand reminded citizens at the outset of the session that no disorderly behavior, debates or criticism of city employees will be tolerated at public meetings.

Other officials in attendance were council members Barbara Moyer, Dan McGaw and John Brown, city administrator Robert Slaby, solicitor Frank Konopka, controller Gary Haddock, treasurer Brenda Scandle, Chief of Police Darwin Tobias III, code enforcement officer Rick Bozza, community development officer Lynn Dixson and administrative accountant Doreen Annis.