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A costly 'nuisance'

Philadelphia made great progress in many areas but, alas, tax collection does not appear to be one of them. While the collection rate has improved, the city is still owed half billion -- that's b as in "oh, boy" -- in uncollected real estate taxes plus penalties and interest. That's money that many of us wonder will ever be collected.

Alas, the city is also owed almost another half billion in "nuisance liens," as The Inquirer's Claudia Vargas reports. Those $432 million in unpaid liens are for work sealing, cleaning and demolition of dangerous, neglected properties performed by the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections. The liens are aptly named as they're a nuisance to taxpayers who foot the bill for work property owners were too cheap, derelict or broke too perform.

"It's a surprise to me that in a city that is stone-cold broke, someone hasn't figured out a way to collect those liens," said Bennett Levin, a former head of L&I.

As Vargas rightly points out, the debt owed is almost enough to eliminate the School District's $440 million deficit.

--Karen Heller