Monday, November 16, 2009

Pennies That Could Have Been Pinched

With a possible 9.6 percent tax increase looming, economy is on the minds of citizens.

This citizen thought the Nov. 11 tax lien sale notice looked different than usual and dredged out last year's notice for comparison. The 2008 notice ran only to just over three pages, while the 2009 one is more than six full pages.

The notice includes the block and lot, name of property owner, address, type of lien and amount owed for each item. Last year, the information was in fine print that permitted two sets of columns per page. This year, only one set was printed per page.

By law, the notice must be printed twice. Last year's cost, noted at the end of the notice, was $4,012.64 per publication date. This year, it's $7,124.60. So for the two insertions, the difference will be $6,223.92. That's about nine weeks of the mayor's $35,000 salary, if my math is correct.

Some of the same property owners' names seem to appear on these lists every year. I have heard for some it is a strategy to hold on to the money owed until the last minute, and then pay up. Obviously, that benefits the property owner and harms the city's cash flow. The city ultimately gets most of its cash, either from the property owner or whoever buys the lien. If the lien is sold, the property owner then owes the lienholder, with up to 18 percent interest on the debt. Unsold liens go to the city at 18 percent interest.

One property owner that I keep an eye on owed a total last year of $54,753.12 on properties, some by himself and some with a partner. For 2009, the amount owed on these 11 properties is $82,829.29, an increase of 51 percent. Too bad the city and PMUA can't get this money as it is billed, instead of having to wrest it out of the owners with a tax lien sale.

The tax lien sale will be held at 10 a.m. Dec. 2 in City Hall Library. Property owners can pay up at the tax collector's office before the sale to avoid having liens placed on their property.

--Bernice Paglia


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