Tax collector faces daily fines
BLAIRSVILLE — Blairsville-Saltsburg School District officials have begun fining Blairsville Borough tax collector Carol Tarasovich over a monthly report that is four days past due.
School district business manager Eric Kocsis disclosed that the school district has taken that step following a school board meeting Wednesday.
The fine relates to an end-of-month report for December. The report is supposed to summarize the taxes collected and at what amount — discount, penalty and face. It was due Jan. 10, but Tarasovich has yet to file it with the district, Kocsis said.
Similar reports are also due monthly to Blairsville Borough and Indiana County, and each of those bodies has the ability to fine tax collectors for late reports as well.
Blairsville Borough manager Tim Evans said Tarasovich hasn’t filed the report with the borough, nor has she provided balanced records going back to August.
Evans said he expects council will be discussing whether to implement a fine against Tarasovich at a meeting next week.
Tarasovich could not be reached for comment this morning.
Kocsis said under state law, the district has the power to fine her $25 per working day for each day the report is late, up to $250 per month.
News of the fine follows the release of a report on Tarasovich’s office. Auditors found, among other things, that her records were inadequate and that she had been sitting on more than $268,000 in undeposited tax payments, something she had previously denied doing.
The examination was launched on concerns over tax receipts that are significantly behind where they should be. The school district estimates it should have around $289,000 more than it does at this point. The borough, meanwhile, said it believes it is around $60,000 short.
Despite the report, Tarasovich maintains that her records are meticulous and that she is the victim of dirty politics.
Tarasovich was to have closed out her books for 2013 on Wednesday, and Kocsis said she has a meeting with the county treasurer’s office today to hand over the tax bills that have been declared delinquent and to report her settled accounts, a routine piece of business for all tax collectors.
Afterward, she is supposed to meet with the borough and school district officials separately so they can sign off on her records.
The auditor’s examination was a first step — they’ll likely be asked to perform a full-blown audit of her records, but officials are waiting for her to report her settled accounts so the auditors have something to make comparisons to.
In the meantime, the talk is turning to what recourse the borough, county and school district have.
There are no local provisions for removing an elected tax collector from office — the only mechanism for it is in the state constitution. For her to be removed, Tarasovich would have to be impeached, convicted of an “infamous crime” or misbehavior in office, or be removed by the governor on approval of a two-thirds vote of the Senate.
So far, no one has accused her of doing anything illegal, although the auditors said they couldn’t rule out the possibility of malfeasance because they didn’t have sufficient information on which to base a conclusion.
In any event, Tarasovich may have, either intentionally or unintentionally, taken a step toward removing herself from office.
Under law, tax collectors are required to be bonded, and failure to obtain a bond disqualifies them from collecting taxes. Tarasovich is bonded for the 2013 tax cycle, but 2014 appears to be a different matter.
In prior years, it was up to the tax collectors to obtain a bond on their own. But beginning for this year, the Indiana County commissioners purchased one blanket bond covering all of the tax collectors.
Chief clerk Robin Maryai said it was a cost-saving move, estimated to save the county $20,000.
The Reschini Group is administering the bond, and tax collectors were to have filed certain information with the company by Dec. 13.
Maryai said Tarasovich did not submit her paperwork, and therefore she is currently not covered under the bond, making her ineligible to collect taxes for 2014.
Whether she could still be included under that bond or would have to obtain one on her own is unclear. It’s also unclear as to whether a bonding agency would be willing to give her one, either, considering the results of the auditor’s findings.
In the event she does not obtain a bond, Blairsville council would have to declare the position vacant and appoint someone to take over the office.