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Mayor names Knudsen city's first tax collection czar

By David Limm on Apr 3, 2013 02:37 PM


With the goal of stepping up the collection of outsized delinquent taxes in Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter has named the School District's former chief recovery officer, Thomas Knudsen, to the newly created position of chief revenue collections officer.

“Tom Knudsen has demonstrated in a number of assignments – from turning around PGW [Philadelphia Gas Works] to acting as chief recovery officer at the Philadelphia School District – that he understands finance and the management of large complex organizations,” said the mayor in a statement released Wednesday.

Tax delinquency has been something of an epidemic in Philadelphia. Over half a billion dollars in unpaid property taxes was owed to the city and insolvent School District in 2012. No other large city in the country comes close to that level of delinquency, according to a 2011 special report conducted by the Inquirer and PlanPhilly.

The need for a tax collection czar was a recommendation made by a consulting firm hired by the city to improve the revenue collections process. In the new position, Knudsen will work with city departments to "identify negative trends in collections and develop corrective actions," according to the mayor's statement. 

Hired last January, for an intended term of six months, to take drastic action on the District's "ominous" fiscal situation, Knudsen took control of the financial reins, imposing severe austerity measures, the result of which was the District's adoption of his five-year plan

While working for the District, Knudsen made $25,000 per month. The salary for his new position will be $160,000. 

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Comments (23)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 3:10 pm
Knudsen was supposed to make $25K/month for 6 months. He stuck around for another 6 (maybe more, who knows?). Will there be a public assessment by the SRC of his performance--the one we paid $300,000.00 for? Did he actually "recover" the schools? Does closing schools --or giving them away-- so you DON'T HAVE TO recover them count? Lisa Haver
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 4:16 pm
For 3 decades PGW was a massive drain on Philadelphia. The cost of this folly makes the $500mm in delinquent taxes look minor. Knudsen brought PGW to profitability despite continuing to give away free gas to over 100,000 residents (an imperative of the Philly machine and why they bought and mismanaged PGW in the first place). His actions are a pale shade of what any real businessman would do, but is at some level that is acceptable to the status quo machine interests. The incompetent people in the revenue department have union job rules and protection against firing and layoffs. So they don't need to worry. There is low hanging fruit here and everywhere else in Philly government. If you want to get more money for schools, start asking why people don't harvest low hanging fruit until it becomes a $500mm public relations debacle.
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 7:00 pm
How do 100,000 households get free natural gas?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 11:01 pm
The 100k counts people who get reduced cost natural gas from the city. http://www.pgworks.com/index.aspx?nid=105 The key is to find someone in your household who can claim 0 income (benefits don't count).
Submitted by ANNONYMOUS (not verified) on April 4, 2013 4:24 am
Do you know why benefits don't count? Some people make a hefty income from benefits (disability, food stamps, medicaid? If a family has 1 adult and 3 children on disability, receives food stamps and medicaid, their net income is easily $2200 / month. That is about the same NET pay as a new teacher! (Disability medicaid includes not only health coverage but also prescription coverage. Recipients also get cost of living increases. They may own a house and car and it isn't counted against the applicant.) So, they also get their utilities paid! Why work?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 6, 2013 4:01 am
In backwoods areas when you get one of your kids into disability for some sort of learning/emotional issue, they call it a "head pension". What do they call it on the streets of Philly?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 7, 2013 9:12 pm
You are completely on point on here. It's the social issues and mental health issues that are the problems. Teachers work hard everyday and I guarantee no one would one take their place for a day and teach in North Philly...any takers??
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 5:15 pm
Knudson produced a failed plan for the school district and PGW doesn't seem much better because of his time there. He must have something on the mayor that keeps him around sucking up our tax money.. Knudson stood ifn front of the church and blamed the problem with school funding on us, saying that we need to pay our taxes -- while knowing that it was the fat cats who owe the lion's of the debt. Wonder will he go after the rich folk who owe millions or will he continue to come after the middle class like this mayor? The money that we have paid to him and BCD should have gone into the classrooms with our children!
Submitted by Joe (not verified) on April 4, 2013 9:28 pm
He may be one of the slumlords himself. Hollywood couldn't make this stuff up and it keeps getting worse.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 5:43 pm
Is Knudsen still (to be) retained as consultant at SDP while working as Tax Czar? Does Penny Nixon still draw salary/benefits from SDP during her sabbatical??
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 5:04 pm
Those are two good questions. Can anyone answer them?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 9:53 pm
Does Knudsen have a pact with the devil? He has the kind of face you want to punch.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 10:33 pm
Agreed. And I have never done that in my life.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 10:45 pm
Agreed. And I have never done that in my life.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 9:58 pm
perhaps Knudsen is the devil or at least the aspect of him that watches over Philadelphia. Keep shining K-Nud
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2013 4:02 am
Knudsen did absolutely nothing in his 1 year plus at collecting $300,000 per year. Now he is at least eligible for over $7,500 in pension from PSERS. No wonder PSERS has a deficit. How hard can it be if the city only hired enough clerks to collect the decades of unpaid real estate taxes? Knudsen in no wunderkind. He is extremely pompous. He hets a pension from PGW, PSERS and who knows where else. More of our tax money wasted.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2013 4:17 am
Knudsen promoted Joe Dalesandro and gave out large raises to SDP management while reneging on union contracts. I never knew anyone who said anything good about Dalesandro.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2013 2:43 pm
Why not sell the delinquent tax liens and generate revenue for the City as well as the District? The tax claim bureau will still collect the taxes the same way that they do now but the City and District will get increased revenue that is sorely needed. The longer it takes to collect the more interest and penalties accrue and can be remitted back to the City, while they get their face value up front.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2013 2:02 pm
Why doesn't the City sell their delinquent tax liens, thus generating revenue for the City and the School District? They would sell and get the money at closing and then when the tax claim bureau collects those taxes it pays the money to the purchaser. Schools all over the state are doing this to augment their budgets.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2013 5:36 pm
How many liens do you want to buy? I have a bridge that is a better buy.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 5, 2013 9:22 am
I would think about 60% of the liens would pay, remember that real estate liens are a first priority on real estate and get paid before anyone else does, plus they pay 9% interest, keep your bridge, this is real money for the City and actually an investment for the buyer, a true win - win if anyone is willing to listen without sarcasm.
Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on April 5, 2013 10:05 am

I am.   The PCAPS school funding task force wants to develop a focus around tax delinquent properties and, as a first step, try to understand why Philadelphia is so bad at it and what are some remedies.   If you could provide some links or if you want to email me with information that would be great.   email is ronw292@gmail.com.

Submitted by gabriela (not verified) on June 4, 2014 6:53 am
I don't really agree with creating more jobs. Sometimes it feels to me like this is just for the benefit of an important person who will get even more money for not that much work. But I hope this will not be the case and he will really do some good work. faceti asigurari

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