Detroit has finally set its sights on some of the real culprits of the city's financial crisis—the banks and for-profit companies that refuse to pay their share.
The city on Wednesday said it issued demand letters to 1,543 private entities, both residential and commercial, to recoup more than $12 million in unpaid property taxes, which piled up between 2010 and 2012 alone.
If they don't pony up, the city will file lawsuits against them by the end of the month, officials said.
"For too long, there are those who chose not to pay what they owed in taxes, leaving everyone else to pay the price," Detroit's treasurer and deputy chief financial officer David Szymanski said Wednesday. "We are working to improve city services for our residents, and to do that—whether it's better police and fire protection, streetlights or better schools for our children—we need everyone who does business in this city to pay their fair share."
Szymanski emphasized the city's plan to go after corporations and multiple-property owners, rather than individual taxpayers, as has previously been the case—notably during the water shutoff crisis in 2014.
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"We are not talking about the family that has fallen on tough times, those struggling to decide whether to feed their children or pay their taxes," he said. "This is about those who tried to make money without paying what they owed. We are standing up for our property owners who paid their taxes and played by the rules."
The Detroit News reported:
The city will also be trying to recoup taxes owed to Wayne County, Wayne County Community College District, Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency, Detroit Public Schools and others.
This is the first round of an ongoing effort by the city to recover what it is owed, with the city planning to go after delinquent taxes for other years as well, officials said.
Dan Austin, a spokesperson for Mayor Mike Duggan, noted to the Detroit Free Press, "$12.2 million can pay for a lot of cops and firefighters. It's not an insignificant amount of money."
Szymanski added: "The message here should be clear: If you're going to do business in Detroit, you have to pay your share, just like everybody else.”