How About A Moratorium On Tax Collection?
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett apparently has no sense of irony.
Last week, Barrett asked Jeff Kremers, the Chief Judge of the Milwaukee County Circuit Courts to unilaterally declare a 60-day moratorium on all home foreclosures in Milwaukee County. Recognizing that this request had no basis in law, Kremers rejected the Mayor's request.
Still, it took a lot of chutzpah for Tom Barrett, of all people, to make a request like this.
First, a foreclosure action is a step of last resort typically undertaken by a lender only when a home owner has fallen way behind on his or her mortgage. Generally, it takes about a year and a half for a foreclosure action to be completed. While the case proceeds through the courts, many lenders receive little or nothing from the borrower. Meanwhile, those who do pay their mortgages end up paying added costs as lenders pass losses attributable to bad debts on to them.
If a lender wants to extend an additional 60-day grace period to a borrower because it believes that the extra time will help the borrower salvage the loan - fine. For most people however, by the time the loan gets deeply into the foreclosure process, the home is lost. Extending the process by yet another 60 days is really nothing but an expensive - for the lender - exercise in futility.
If the Mayor wants to really help his consituents, I have a better idea. How about a moratorium on tax collection?
The local school board has just approved a 14.6% increase in the portion of City of Milwaukee property taxes that go to support the failing entity that is MPS. The MATC Board has increased the property tax levy by 4.9% this year (meaning that the college has boosted the property tax levy 31% in the last five years). The Mayor himself has pushed for substantial increases in the fees that City of Milwaukee residents pay.
If we really want to help people facing tough economic times, why don't we suspend tax collection for a while? I mean, if people had extra time without penalty to pay their property taxes, maybe they could get ahead on their debts? Probably not - but it makes as much sense as Barrett's idea.
If the Mayor wants to assist residents of the City, I would respectfully suggest that he get his own house in order first! Before he starts talking about declaring a moratorium on the ability of some lenders to collect on valid debts, maybe he should look at the role the City of Milwaukee plays in piling on to the financial problems of residents.
Let's see a tax moratorium first - then we can talk about other efforts to stop the collection of legitimate obligations.