Pew: Philly should be able to collect 30 percent of delinquent property taxes

Thomas Knudsen (left) is going to be new "chief recovery officer" for the Philadelphia School District. Knudsen attended this SRC meeting when his new appointment was announced. January 19, 2012 ( SARAH J. GLOVER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )

Over the next few years, Philadelphia should be able to collect about $155 million of the $515.4 million owed to the city by delinquent property taxpayers, according to a new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The study looked at 36 U.S. cities and found that Philly has the fifth-highest delinquency rate. Compared to cities with similar poverty rates, however, Philly has had similar rates over the last few years.

Cities with high collection rates, the study found, adhere to strict timetables about when and how to go after delinquents, whereas Philly has been inconsistent.

That 30 percent increase can happen, the study said, if "well-funded tax collectors use all of their statutory powers, including foreclosure, more aggressively than in years past."

Read the full study here.

The debate over property-tax delinquency took center stage earlier this year as the city moved toward adopting the Actual Value Initiative, the overhaul of the property-assessment system Mayor Nutter has been pushing for.

A recent PlanPhilly/Inquirer investigation highlighted the city’s poor performance on collections and revealed a ripple effect of problems for neighborhood’s with high delinquency.

Nutter in February announced a series of measures intended to crack down on tax deadbeats, including the creation a chief collections officer position.

The administration says it will collect $28 million more in delinquencies next year, although that number includes more taxes than just the real estate levy.