Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG) today encouraged members of Pittsburgh City Council to support the outsourcing of delinquent City real estate taxes to a 3rd party agency, Jordan Tax Service, as part of a greater movement towards linking tax collections, homeownership preservation and land recycling. Council members will vote on the resolution during today's session.
The outsourcing, part of a three-pronged plan to revitalize our City, will consolidate and centralize the collection process with the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the County and Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority who have already approved the collection services of Jordan Tax Service. If approved by City Council, as of January 1st 2010, residents would be getting one bill.
"This consolidation will benefit the delinquent taxpayer by offering them one low monthly payment which will allow them to save on the multiple fees that are being charged by multiple collection companies," said City Treasurer Margaret Lanier. "In addition, centralizing the process will generate more revenue through more effective collection procedures."
This contract builds off of the momentous buyback of privately-held municipal liens in December 2006, in which the City bought back liens on 11,000 properties for $6.5 million, approximately one-tenth of the original cost. Since that time the Mayor has continued to engage PCRG and its member organizations to find solutions on how to address the negative effects of tax delinquent and abandoned properties.
"Tax Delinquency and abandonment feed the cycle of blight, which becomes a hotbed of crime and deteriorates neighborhoods both socially and economically. We have the opportunity here and now not just to look at how we collect taxes and turn revenue into the services that our residents need, but also to examine how tax collection, homeownership preservation and land recycling are intimately tied together for the long-term vitality of the City and region," said Ernie Hogan, chair of the PCRG Board of Directors.
"Our goal here is not just to streamline the collection services, but to also connect those who are experiencing tough economic times to available financial and housing counseling services," Ravenstahl said.
In addition to the third party collection, the Mayor and PCRG will work together to make sure that delinquent taxpayers are made aware of all of their options, and to develop innovative strategies to reclaim and best utilize land.
"If we are going to pursue more aggressive tax collection, we have an obligation to our constituents to help them avoid becoming tax delinquent in the first place. A crucial component of this partnership is homeownership preservationproactively reaching out to struggling homeowners to help them avoid delinquency. The Mayor's commitment to this, especially in these difficult times, is admirable and I'm confident we can continue to work together on behalf of our communities," said City Councilman Patrick Dowd.
Other cities throughout the nation, such as Philadelphia, have had significant success in collecting revenue through this method.
Said the Mayor, "I look forward to working with City Council, the County, Jordan Tax Service and the community at large to ensure that delinquent taxpayers are made aware of all of their options and to develop innovative strategies to unlock the potential of our land."
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Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG) is a coalition of community leaders working for economic justice, equitable investment practices and sufficient financial resources to revitalize communities throughout Allegheny County. Since 1988, PCRG has worked with Pittsburgh's major lending institutions and public agencies to develop innovative reinvestment programs targeted to Pittsburgh's low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
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Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl
512 City County Building | 414 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
telephone: 412-255-2626 | facsimile: 412-255-2687