Common Council could create "Outstanding Debt Work Group" to push for ways to collect debt

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Common Council could create an Outstanding Debt Work Group to push for ways to collect tens of millions in debt owed to city taxpayers under proposed legislation heard Monday, March 21st by the Common Council’s Judiciary and Legislation Committee.

The measure, authored by Alderman Terry Witkowski and co-sponsored by Alderman Ashanti Hamilton and Alderman Nik Kovac, was the topic of a news conference involving all three aldermen in the third floor Council Chamber Anteroom Monday.

Alderman Witkowski, chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, said the city has four separate contracts with third-party vendors to collect delinquent taxes, forfeitures, judgments and fees owed the city, yet as of November 2015 the city’s parking collections vendor reasonably expects to collect only $16.3 million of the $34.6 million owed for unpaid parking citations.

“The city is paying different fees for the same collection services under these vendor contracts, so the gravity of the (collection) problem is immense,” Alderman Witkowski said. “Very simply, we need to look more closely at our policies and practices for collecting delinquent taxes, forfeitures, judgments and fees owed the city, to make sure we are using the best possible practices to recover those millions in outstanding debt.”

Alderman Witkowski said recent changes in State of Wisconsin statutes make it possible to contract with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue to collect delinquent taxes, forfeitures, judgments and fees owed the city at no charge to the city. He said the Department of Revenue may be more effective in collecting unpaid debt, especially unpaid parking citations, owed by parties living outside the City of Milwaukee.

“This initiative (Outstanding Debt Work Group) is important for the future, because a review and possible update of the city’s current outstanding debt collection practices may result in more effective debt collection at a lower cost, and benefit city residents by making more non-property-tax revenue available to fund city services,” Alderman Witkowski said.