By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Nutter Administration says it’s doing a better job of going after tax deadbeats, but City Council members are wondering if more can be done.

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They convened a hearing this past week to check in on tax collections and the Mayor’s Revenue Chief, Clarena Tolson, said deadbeats are getting the message that the city is serious:

“We are creating a culture of compliance, sending strong message that the city of Philadelphia cannot subsidize businesses and individuals at the expense of children and citizens.  We are proud of that progress, and we’re continuing this momentum to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share.”

For example, Tolson said her department collected more than $100-million in the past due real estate taxes in the last fiscal year. But council members wanted to know how much is still owed to the city and school district.

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The answer, according to Tolson: roughly $477-million in taxes due going back a decade.

That amount bothered Councilman Mark Squilla, who suggested that new approaches — or outside help — may be needed:

“We may need additional help to getting to the final stage of cleaning everything up.  And if we could get those numbers where people now know that every citizen is paying their fair share, it would do a lot of credit to us as the city of Philadelphia.”

One approach, Squilla suggested, would be to revive the idea of tax lien sales, in which the amount owed is sold to a third party, who would then attempt collection.  That approach was used in the 1990s during the administration of Ed Rendell.

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