Cherry discusses tax delinquency at WFBA meeting

FLINT TWP. — Genesee County Treasurer Deb Cherry expected to be in court this week to legally submit a list of properties with unpaid taxes.

“Right now we have 6,800 going through the process.,’’ Cherry said in a talk last week to the West Flint Business Association where she described the tax delinquency and foreclosure management

The three-year process begins with delinquency the first year that taxes go unpaid, is classified as a forfeiture in the second year and in the third year become a foreclosure if still not paid by the March 31 deadline, Cherry said.

She anticipated some of those 6,800 delinquencies will be paid by the deadline. Some will get tax deferrals through a program set up to help property owners get caught up. Last year, about 900 people got help through the tax deferral program, she said.

But Cherry said she expects foreclosure on about 2,500 properties this year which is about 200 more than last year.

The county foreclosure rate has skyrocketed in recent years due to the economy, Cherry said.

Three months into her job as treasurer Cherry said she’s had a strong learning curve but is focusing on changes she thinks needs to be made in managing delinquent tax and property.

A recently formed task force, made up of municipal leaders and others with property interests, has been created to come up with a plan aimed at earlier intervention.

“We might be able to solve problem before they are three years down the road,’’ Cherry said, noting that late fees and interest rates on delinquent taxes can be higher than the taxes themselves. “It’s a cycle hard to get out of once they get in.’’

Cherry said delinquent property owners needing to set up a payment plan should call 810-257-3059.

“I come from a social services background,’’ Cherry said. “I really wanted to figure out a way to lower the number of foreclosures.‘’ She said she expects it to be a few more years before there’s a turnaround in the lagging local housing market.

Cherry also noted that part of her job is to act as chairperson of the Genesee County Land Bank which has been criticized lately for property management and sales issues.

The Genesee County Land Bank was formed in 2002 when the state of Michigan passed a law to give control of foreclosures local governments.

Foreclosed properties are not deeded to the Land Bank until after they have gone through two property auctions. The first requires a minimum bid but the second does not.

Of 200 foreclosed properties offered in the first auction last fall, only 24 were sold,Cherry said. That left a great number of properties for sale in the second auction which led to a big brouhaha when a buyer of about 58 properties bundled and resold them on ebay for a substantial profit.

Cherry disagrees with critics who say it is time to get rid of the Land Bank.

“No we don’t,’’ said Cherry, noting that there still would be foreclosed properties needing management.

A former state senator, Cherry also told the WFBA that she was headed to Lansing last week to talk with legislators about passing a bill to eliminate that second auction with the aim of stopping speculators.

Those houses sold on ebay will likely end up going back through the foreclosure cycle again, she said. People who buy such properties sight unseen are not going to spend the money needed to fix them up.

Cherry also mentioned that several subdi- visions that were under development fell into tax delinquency are now or soon will be coming into the Land Bank. Redevelopment plans for them are being discussed, she said.

At least one mobile home park also is on the brink of foreclosure but Cherry said efforts are being made to prevent it.

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