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PENN-DELCO SCHOOL DISTRICT AND BOARD DIRECTORS PENN-DELCO SCHOOL DISTRICT v. HARRY E. SCHUKRAFT AND WALTER NOWAK AND VINCENT PIERDOMENICO AND ELIZABETH T. LEWIS (03/18/86)

decided: March 18, 1986.

PENN-DELCO SCHOOL DISTRICT AND BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF PENN-DELCO SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANTS
v.
HARRY E. SCHUKRAFT AND WALTER NOWAK AND VINCENT PIERDOMENICO AND ELIZABETH T. LEWIS, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County in the case of Henry E. Schukraft and Walter Nowak and Vincent Pierdomenico and Elizabeth T. Lewis v. Penn-Delco School District and Board of Directors of Penn-Delco School District, No. 81-15287.

COUNSEL

Edward J. Carney, Jr., Petrikin, Wellman, Damico, Carney & Brown, for appellants.

Paul L. Patchel, with him, Edward S. Lawhorne, Lawhorne, Muller and Delsordo, for appellees.

Judges Rogers and Palladino, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Barbieri.

Author: Barbieri

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 620]

Penn-Delco School District (District) and the Board of Directors of the Penn-Delco School District (Board), Appellants, appeal here a final decree in equity of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County. That final decree enjoins Appellants from utilizing the "lock-box" system for collecting taxes; restored the duties of the office of the tax collectors to the duly elected tax collectors; and declared the Board resolution of February 12, 1981, which reduced the salary of the elected tax collectors to $1.00 per year, null and void. We affirm.

Three of the Appellees were candidates for the office of tax collector in the three municipalities contained in the District at the time of the commencement of this litigation.*fn1 The fourth Appellee is suing in his right as a resident taxpayer.*fn2 The candidate Appellees have since

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 621]

    won election and subsequently took office as the tax collectors in their respective municipalities. Since 1977, the District had adopted a "lock-box" system*fn3 for the collection of its taxes which effectively stripped the tax collectors of the duties under Sections 2 and 6 of the Local Tax Collection Law, Act of May 25, 1945, P.L. 1050, as amended, 72 P.S. ยง 5511.2 and 5511.6. In recognition of the cost savings realized by the District and of the reduced workload which the lock-box system put upon the elected tax collectors, the Board adopted a resolution on February 12, 1981 which transferred most of the tax collectors' statutory duties to District employees or agents and also reduced the tax collectors' salaries to $1 per year.*fn4 The Appellees commenced an equity action to enjoin the District from utilizing the lock-box system, to restore the statutory duties to the office of the tax collector, and to restore the tax collectors' previous salaries. The common pleas court agreed with the Appellees that the District lacked the authority to transfer the duties imposed upon tax collectors by statute to others and granted the relief sought. After the common pleas court denied the Appellants' exceptions to the decree, a timely appeal to this Court followed.

In this appeal, the Appellants contend that (1) the Appellees lack standing to bring this action; (2) that the

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 622]

Appellees were not entitled to equitable relief; (3) that the District is entitled to the rights and privileges provided by Home Rule; and (4) that the common pleas court erred in dismissing the District's counterclaim and setting the salaries of the tax collectors at an amount other than that stipulated to by the parties. We shall address these issues in the order stated. In reviewing a final decree in equity, our scope of review is limited to determining whether the chancellor's findings are supported by substantial evidence, whether there was an error of law committed, or whether the chancellor abused his discretion. Babin v. City of Lancaster, 89 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 527, 493 A.2d 141 (1985).

Appellants' challenge to the standing of the Appellees is based solely upon the fact that the candidate Appellees had won their respective primary elections.*fn5 It is their argument that since the candidate Appellees won their respective primary elections, they lacked standing to challenge the District's reduction of their salaries under our Supreme Court's decision in Myers v. School District of Newtown Township, 396 Pa. 542, 153 A.2d 494 (1959). In that case, an incumbent tax collector had run for, and won, re-election to his office before he brought his action to restore his salary to its previous level. Since he had been victorious in the general election and had been sworn into office, the Supreme Court held that ...


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