Collecting delinquent taxes comes with the territory

Bradley Slagh knew the drill when he was elected Ottawa County treasurer four years ago. He would invest money, record revenues, manage the county's dog license program and collect delinquent taxes as part of his many duties.
Len Painter
Jan 19, 2012

 

What he hadn’t expected was the sudden downturn of the housing market that led to a rash of foreclosures, and a corresponding rise in delinquent property taxes.

“I understood that collecting delinquent taxes was part of the job, but I didn’t understand how it was going to affect lives,” Slagh said. “It isn’t a fun part of the job.”

In 2008, Ottawa County had $14.9 million in delinquent taxes, more than double the delinquent tax total of $7.3 million in 2003.

The delinquency rate did drop to $11.8 million in 2010. Slagh is projecting $12.5 million in delinquent property taxes for 2011. Property taxes that are unpaid in 2011 don’t become delinquent until March.

A major reason behind the sudden increase in delinquent property taxes is the number of parcels previously purchased by speculators and developers at top market prices, but have since lost value as the housing market slumped. Those properties are not being developed or are “under water,” making them vulnerable for foreclosure, Slagh said.

This year, Slagh anticipates the county foreclosing on 120 properties — most of them from an undeveloped condominium project in Georgetown Township.

The Ottawa County Treasurer’s Office has to pay local governments to cover the costs of unpaid taxes. In 2011, the Treasurer’s Office paid local governments $11.8 million.

After property taxes become delinquent in March, Slagh’s office then tries to collect money for the delinquent taxes. If the county fails to collect back taxes after all efforts are exhausted, then local governments are asked to share in the cost of unpaid taxes located in their jurisdiction.

While the delinquent property tax rate has risen dramatically in Michigan in the past three years, Ottawa County is faring much better than counties in the eastern part of the state.

“Fortunately, I’m not dealing with the numbers that Detroit deals with,” Slagh said.

While his first term in office has been a difficult one, Slagh said he enjoys the work and plans to seek another term.

For more information on paying property taxes, go to Ottawa County’s website at www.miottawa.org.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

Housing service can help people facing foreclosure

The city of Grand Haven’s Neighborhood Housing service was originally set up to help first-time homebuyers and existing homeowners to successfully maintain their homes

Char Seise, the city’s neighborhood development coordinator, said her agency partners with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to create homeownership opportunities, and in providing grants for residents to fix up their homes. But she and her staff are spending more and more time helping people facing foreclosure proceedings.

Seise said her department can provide free assistance for homeowners who are in need of help.

“We have all kinds on information on our website,” Seise said. “People don’t know where to go for help, and we can provide it.”

While Seise’s office works under the auspice of the city of Grand Haven, the Neighborhood Development Association can help people throughout Northwest Ottawa County, she said.

Lynn Balkema, who works as a counselor for Seise, said the federal government has made $150 million available to Michigan and four other states hit hard by the housing slump to help homeowners to prevent foreclosure.

For more information, call Seise at 935-3275, or visit the city’s website at www.grandhaven.org.

 

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