Council hears more about Philly's delinquency problem

The city of Philadelphia could do more to collect unpaid taxes.

That simple concept emerged during an afternoon of City Council hearings Wednesday on Philadelphia’s tax delinquency problem. 

City Controller Alan Butkovitz cited Philadelphia Gas Works as evidence that collections can be improved.

“About 12 years ago, the Philadelphia Gas Works had a dismal collection rate of 86 percent. In a few short years, new PGW management turned that around with focused effort by incorporating a new billing system, acquiring additional collection tools and automated collection strategies,” Butkovitz said.

Philadelphia Gas Works Chief Executive Craig White said the company had developed a collection system that identifies which delinquent customers are most likely to pay and tailors its strategy for going after each bill accordingly.

A series analyzing Philadelphia's relatively poor tax collection rate  appeared recently in the Inquirer and on the PlanPhilly web site.

Real-estate lawyer Darrell Zaslow said the city should consider getting court orders that would allow it to collect rental income from properties owned by deadbeat landlords. That could be accomplished more quickly in some cases, he said, than foreclosure.

Chris Sawyer, who blogs at Philadelinquency, said the increased interest in city housing gives the city a strong opportunity to take over delinquent properties more quickly and sell them at market rates.

“Accelerate the process of recycling properties,” he said.




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