City Controller: Philly's tax collection rate is unacceptable

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City Controller Alan Butkovitz has not hid his desire to run for mayor in 2015. (File photograph)

More needs to be done to collect from tax delinquents.

That was the theme of City Council's second round of hearings Wednesday on tax delinquency --a major topic of concern as the city moves to Actual Value, a new property-tax system based on market values.

"It is unacceptable that Philadelphia ranks near the bottom of major cities in tax collection," City Controller Alan Butkovitz told Council. "It can be done and it must be done."

He and Council members expressed frustration with the Nutter administration's collection rate which an Inquirer series noted is lower than past mayoral administrations.

Councilman Jim Kenney said the Revenue Department and the administration have to have a "will" to change. Revenue Commissioner Keith Richardson defended the city's tax collections strategy during Tuesday's hearing.

Other members questioned whether the city was doing enough to inform Philadelphians about payment plans.

"I don't know that we're doing the best job in making opportunities of payment known to citizens," said Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.

Monty Wilson, an attorney at Community Legal Services said the city needs to establish a law that will require all agencies to provide residents with the same information related to payment plans. He said the information provided to residents often varies.

"The system needs to be fair and consistent: ensuring that homeowners are offered the same opportunity whether they are dealing with the Revenue Department, the Law Department, or the city's co-counsel, the law firms of Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson or GRB."

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