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"A modest proposal" for Detroit's property tax collection woes

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

A Detroit-based technology firm says it has an elegant solution to the city's property tax-collection woes.

Loveland Technologies has been mapping the city’s tax-foreclosed properties online. And Loveland founder Jerry Paffendorf says they’ve come across some remarkable data along the way, like this: “The city of Detroit is nearly half a billion dollars behind on property tax collection, when you add in penalties and interest.”

A recent Detroit News study also found that nearly half of all Detroit properties had delinquent taxes.

Paffendorf says part of the solution could be making paying property taxes online easier.

And so Loveland has developed a simple—and ideally, free--online program where residents can enter their address, get a simple clear breakdown of their tax information, and pay.

“So with one click you’re either making a one-time payment, or you’re signing up to make an ongoing subscription every month. So that your taxes start to become more like rent," Paffendorf says.

“The idea being that if we need to generate funds for city services and things and we need to fix that tax collection gap, there’s a very simple way to do through the web.”

Paffendorf says it would be relatively cheap and quick to implement such a program. He thinks it could be done within 30 days.

And he’s “optimistic” that city officials, including incoming emergency manager Kevyn Orr, are listening--and will embrace the idea.

“If we really are in a financial emergency right now, then you think it’s time that we adopt some of these very simple things that increase the revenues coming back into the city?” Paffendorf asked.

Orr’s first day as Detroit’s emergency financial manager is March 25.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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