A Boston law office has helped the city recover about $2 million in unpaid property taxes since late 2006.
Gerry D'Ambrosio, of D'Ambrosio Law Offices, has worked for the city to help collect delinquent taxes from homes and businesses.
Standard & Poor's recently upgraded the city's bond rating to the second highest possible. Tax collections in the city typically exceed 98 percent.
The city is committed to keeping its finances in order, D'Ambrosio said.
"They're very non-political, very businesslike and professional," said D'Ambrosio, who specifically praised Mayor Nancy Stevens and Comptroller/Treasurer Tom Abel.
D'Ambrosio's work comes at no cost to the city, as the delinquent taxpayer pays the legal services, said Collector Deborah Puleo.
"We thought it would be good for the city," Puleo said of the decision to bring on D'Ambrosio.
The city sends a bill to homes that have unpaid taxes. The city can advertise a list of residents who have not paid after 14 days. If the city still does not have the money after six months, D'Ambrosio said his office can take the resident to land court, which could force payment or start the foreclosure process.
"We're there for the entire process from start to finish, to consult," D'Ambrosio said.
The city tries to find a middle ground for hard luck cases, the attorney said. For example, with an elderly resident who has not paid, the city could try a refinancing option, get the family involved or set up a payment plan.
"The city is not in the business of throwing out individuals," D'Ambrosio said.
D'Ambrosio also said he comes down harder on businesses.
The attorney has worked to return a couple of major abandoned properties to the tax rolls, such as Corbin Plaza at 110 Pleasant St. He helped the city foreclose on Corbin Plaza in 2008 after the former landlord could not pay $335,000 in back taxes. The property sold at auction last December for $310,000 to a North Andover doctor, who is working to open businesses there.
"They've (rehabilitated) an otherwise dilapidated property," D'Ambrosio said.
City Council President Arthur Vigeant said he is pleased with D'Ambrosio's work, but the city also needs to do a better job of staying on top of the tax collection process.
"Now that we've got things moving along, we can't let it slide," he said.
Since April, D'Ambrosio has also been working in Framingham, helping to collect close to $900,000, and in Maynard, helping to collect more than $300,000.
(Paul Crocetti can be reached at 508-490-7453 or email@example.com.)