Detroiters Who Owe Taxes: The Private Guys Are Coming!

DETROIT —One of the many reasons privatization has proven to be so popular with public officials, when it’s done right, is that it usually gets the job done more efficiently than bureaucratic monopolies. That’s a reason why some Detroit residents may soon come to fear it.

The issue is tax collection, which delinquent taxpayers would just as soon see accomplished with as little efficiency as possible. In fact, that has sometimes been the way it worked in Detroit, where there is at least $100 million in delinquent property taxes. That represents, according to Darci McConnell in the March 21 Detroit Free Press, 50,000 to 80,000 tardy tax bills, some of which go back 20 years.

Detroit city officials told the City Council in March that the city should consider hiring a private collection agency to go after a chunk of the huge back tax bill. A contract would have to be approved by the city council.

Detroit continues to inch its way toward modern city management by dabbling in privatization, a strategy that is embraced far more enthusiastically by most major American city administrations. Last November, after a protracted effort punctuated by bitter words from some council members and an employee union, the city council finally approved a plan to turn over management of the Detroit Institute of Arts to a nonprofit corporation.