CAMPAIGN 2013: Two square off for tax collector
In the primary election, White Township voters showed they wanted accounting experience in their candidates for township tax collector. In the general election, they have it.
Up for election this November are Democrat Barbara Levine, who works in the Indiana County Treasurer’s office, and Republican Jeffrey Mack, an accountant with Evans and Mack CPA in Indiana.
Both touted their experience and handily advanced in the primary election in one of this year’s most hotly contested races.
A dozen candidates — nine Republicans and three Democrats — were on the ballot in May, seeking to fill the opening that will be left when tax collector Melvin O’Keefe steps down after 24 years in office. His sixth term ends Dec. 31.
Levine received 472 votes, more than twice that of runner-up William Winters. Mack received 521 votes, exactly 300 more than his closest contender, Mark Milner.
The White Township tax collector collects property taxes on behalf of the county and the Indiana Area School District. White Township does not have a property tax.
Tax collection compensation is tied to the amount of taxes collected. While the salary varies, the pay can approach $78,000 a year.
In the spring, chief clerk for Indiana County Robin Maryai said more candidates stepped forward to run for White Township tax collector than she could remember in any previous election.
Levine works in the Indiana County treasurer’s office, and she said she can take much from this experience to the tax collector position.
“If elected, I will be proud to bring to the White Township taxpayers 12 years of actual experience with their property and per capita taxes,” she said in a statement Friday.
As revenue administrative assistant in the treasurer’s office, she works with monthly reports and money from all of Indiana County’s tax collectors. She also handles per capita payments made after year end and addresses taxpayer problems and concerns.
In addition to her work at the treasurer’s office, Levine also has experience in the county’s tax assessment office. She worked there during the introduction of the
The White Township tax collector position is a unique one, Levine said, because the municipality has the largest tax base in the county.
“Because of the size of the township, the pay is considerable,” she said. “Because of this, this position requires and deserves a dedicated, full-time, fully focused tax collector.”
While tax collectors are allowed to have deputized staff, Levine said, if elected, she’ll leave her current position and take on the full workload of the tax collector post.
“As much as I have enjoyed my years with the treasurer’s office, if elected, I am willing to leave to be the dedicated, fully focused, full-time collector the people deserve,” she said.
Levine said she would lease an office space with convenient parking and that is an easy walk, not far from the current tax collector’s office; keep the office open full time plus extend hours for people who work; and update technology to increase the ease with which taxpayers can communicate with the office and make payments.
“I’m a person who wants to help, so I will stay on top of any info that can help taxpayers in any way,” she said.
“If elected, my office will be comfortable and friendly with quick, accurate service.”
This is Levine’s first run for an elected position.
Levine and her husband, Jonathan, have two children, Craig and Jessica.
An Indiana County resident since 1981, Mack decided to throw his hat in the ring when he heard of the upcoming vacancy that will be left by O’Keefe.
“Once this position became open,” he said, “it looked like it would be a good fit for my skills.”
In addition to his experience as a partner at Evans and Mack, he has worked as an auditor with Ernst & Whinney in Pittsburgh and as controller at Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Co.
Besides drawing on his accounting experience, Mack said he would aim to increase use of technology in the tax collector role. That would include using the Internet to send reminders to residents about upcoming deadlines and also to provide tax information.
His firm, he said, was one of the first to use electronic tax filing and electronic files when it opened 13 years ago.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to implement new technology as far as being about to serve the taxpayers well, and, of course, safely and securely,” he said.
Technology attracts him because of automatic reminders that can help taxpayers avoid things like late filing penalties. In his work, he said, he has seen firsthand the frustration that missed deadlines, and their fees, can bring.
“That’s why I’d like to enhance the ability for them to be reminded of deadlines,” he said.
In addition, Mack said he would incorporate document imaging technology to create an “electronic file cabinet” that would supplement the tax collector’s paper records.
He has secured space in the Canterbury Office Suites on Philadelphia Street, which he said will prove accessible for residents. In addition to regular full-time hours, Mack would like to include some evening and weekend hours.
If elected, Mack said, a number of his duties at Evans and Mack will shift to others in the firm. He doesn’t plan to totally withdraw from the partnership but, he said, his main focus will be the tax collector position.
An Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate, Mack has two children, Meghan and Andrew, with his late wife, Linda Moore Mack. His children live in Indiana.