Pittsfield’s property tax scofflaws owe the city $3 million and may have grown confident they can duck the debt indefinitely. City Hall’s plan to recoup the money by auctioning off the collections to private firms and investors may persuade them otherwise and bring in some overdue and much-needed revenue.
Mayor Daniel Bianchi announced Friday that the city will hold two tax title auctions early next year. The winning bidders will pay the full amount of the tax owned to the city and then go after the delinquent tax owners to recoup their investment. The private firms are also allowed by the state to charge up to 16 percent interest on the money due them.
The city will not only get overdue tax revenue in this process it will avoid having to fight its way through Land Court, where many of these properties have long sat in arrears. Private companies have more resources at their disposal and fewer obstacles to face than does government in seeking the property owed by tax scofflaws should they fail to pay the money owed.
Mayor Bianchi stressed that property owners who owe back taxes will be notified well before the auctions, which will give them the opportunity to avoid dealing with a private firm that will assuredly be insistent about getting its money, with interest. Those who want to avoid this legal unpleasantness have now been given a powerful incentive to pay their back taxes to the city instead, and if necessary, work with City Hall to set up a payment plan to enable them to do so. Paying taxes to help finance the benefits of living in a community is a serious responsibility and governments are justified in employing serious methods of collecting them.