Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Pike County in case of Myra Blaine v. Wallenpaupack Area School District, No. 35 May Term, 1973.
Marshall E. Anders, with him Sidney L. Krawitz, and Krawitz, Sigal & Ridley, P.A., for appellant.
Jay R. Rose, with him Finan, Beecher, Wagner & Rose, P.A., for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by President Judge Bowman.
[ 19 Pa. Commw. Page 374]
At issue in this appeal is the interpretation of section 36.1 of the Local Tax Collection Law, Act of May 25, 1945, P.L. 1050, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5511.36(a). This section of the Act provides as pertinent hereto:
"When any taxing district or taxing authorities propose to . . . reduce the compensation . . . for the office of an elected tax collector, such action shall be by ordinance or resolution, finally passed . . . prior to the fifteenth day of February of the year of the municipal election." (Emphasis added.)
The issue is whether a taxing district has the power to reduce the compensation payable to a person who is appointed, with prior notice of the proposed reduction in compensation, to fulfill the unexpired term of a deceased elected tax collector. Alternately stated, the issue is whether the compensation fixed by the taxing district can be reduced during the term of the office of an elected tax collector, if a vacancy occurs in that office, for whatever reason, prior to the expiration of the term. The lower court concluded that a taxing district could not reduce the compensation of a tax collector under such circumstances. The aggrieved school district has appealed.
In the instant case the appellant school district initially fixed the compensation for the elected tax collector at the rate of three percent of the school tax collected. During his term, which was to expire on January 1, 1974, the elected tax collector died and appellant, prior to appointing the appellee to fill the remainder of the unexpired term, reduced the compensation of the tax collector from three percent to two percent of school taxes collected. With knowledge of this reduction, the appellee accepted her appointment as tax collector, and thereafter filed a complaint in mandamus to compel the appellant to pay her a three percent commission on future taxes to be collected, and also to reimburse her for the difference between the compensation she received at the
[ 19 Pa. Commw. Page 375]
two percent rate and what allegedly was due her had the compensation been fixed at three percent.
A stipulation as to the facts was filed in the lower court which it characterized as translating the cause of action from one in mandamus to a cause of action sounding debt. In concluding that the appellant could not reduce appellee's compensation, the lower court reasoned that since the statute speaks in terms of compensation for the office of elected tax collector, the school district was without power to change the compensation during the term of the office of the now deceased tax collector notwithstanding a vacancy had occurred and now filled by appointment of the present incumbent. We reverse.
Section 36.1 of the Act was designed to provide adequate notice, to all candidates for the office of tax collector, as to the compensation they would receive if elected to that office. Myers v. School District of Newtown Township, 396 Pa. 542, 153 A.2d 494 (1959); Cooke v. Greenville, 2 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 417, 278 A.2d 182 (1971). The fifteenth day of February, referred to in section 36.1, was a date chosen by the Legislature to enable prospective candidates to make a decision as to the adequacy of the salary and thereafter whether to run for the office prior to expending time, money and effort in the primary election in May and thereafter in the municipal election in the fall. Additionally and of equal importance is the legislative intent that the ...