Monday, September 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Collecting debts from city workers in Chicago

Remember when the Inquirer reported on Philadelphia city workers who fell behind on taxes? Apparently working for the city while owing it money is not exclusively a local problem. The Chicago Sun-Times reports on a Chicago initiative to get government workers to settle parking and water bill debts. Five weeks ago, mayor Rahm Emanuel threatened to suspend or fire workers who didn't pay up or enter payment plans. Since then, the city has collected $1.1 million, and reduced the percentage of city workers who owe money from 7.1 percent to 2.3 percent.

Collecting debts from city workers in Chicago

CHARLES DHARAPAK / Associated Press

Remember when the Inquirer reported on Philadelphia city workers who fell behind on taxes? Apparently working for the city while owing it money is not exclusively a local problem. The Chicago Sun-Times reports on a Chicago initiative to get government workers to settle parking and water bill debts. Five weeks ago, mayor Rahm Emanuel threatened to suspend or fire workers who didn't pay up or enter payment plans. Since then, the city has collected $1.1 million, and reduced the percentage of city workers who owe money from 7.1 percent to 2.3 percent.

Beyond the threats, the Emaunel administration is making a concerted effort to contact all of the employees in question, with "involuntary payroll deductions" as a last resort.

In Philly, when word hit about city workers who were delinqunent on taxes, the Controller promised to dock those workers' pay. And it did, in 2009. But then it didn't do the same for workers who became delinquent in 2010 and 2011. The crackdown was scheduled to resume this fall.

It would be nice to learn a lesson from Chicago on this, but really the main thing Philly did wrong over the last two years is stop a fairly obvious enforcement procedure.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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