October 14, 2009
[efoods]Pittsburgh City Council today took a first vote toward outsourcing the job of collecting delinquent property taxes, after getting assurances that homeowners with tax problems will be able to enter into payment plans.
Councilman Patrick Dowd, who was initially skeptical of contracting with Jordan Tax Service and law firm Goehring, Rutter & Boehm, led the charge that led to unanimous passage.
“We are essentially handing a baseball bat to the tax collector and saying, ‘Be more aggressive,’” he said. But he added that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has agreed to invite all delinquent taxpayers to make good before the outsourcing takes effect on Jan. 1, and to preserve and enhance a system by which community groups can target debtors’ properties for purchase and redevelopment.
The Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, an umbrella organization of neighborhood groups, endorsed the arrangement and spoke for it at council’s meeting. Unlike a 1990s sale of city tax liens, this deal would not give the collection firms the power to nix redevelopment efforts, said PCRG official Aggie Brose.