As property tax deadline approaches, thousands scramble

MICHIGAN — As the final deadline approached today to pay property taxes before foreclosure, thousands of Wayne County homeowners and residents crowded the treasurer’s offices to ask questions, negotiate payment plans and hand over checks and cash.

“I’ve never come down this late, and I’ll never do it again,” Kim Gibbs, 40, of River Rouge said. She had been waiting with her 8-year-old niece who was visiting from Kentucky for more than three hours and had no idea how much longer the wait would be. “I have to be at work at 3 o’clock. I’ll have to call in to say, ‘I’m not coming.’ “

The deadline to pay Wayne County property taxes — or enter into a payment plan — was today, and at 4:30 p.m., the treasure’s office said, it would close the doors.

Staff planned to stay as late as it took to help people who were in line by the deadline.

After that, they said, properties with delinquent bills for 2013 that were not on a payment plan would be made available for purchase by the state, local and county — then offered for public auction.

“Please, just be patient,” Kim Homan, deputy treasurer of land management said in an announcement to the crowd. “The treasurer is doing everything he can to make sure people can stay in their homes, and that’s why he extended all the deadlines until today. We’ll call the next set of numbers shortly.”

Foreclosures are down dramatically in Wayne County this year, in part, officials in Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree’s office said, because of door-to-door outreach and other programs designed to help keep residents in their homes.

The Treasurer’s Office expects the number of properties headed to auction for not paying taxes to be about 18,000, down from 28,000 last year.

Crowds at the tax offices this year were especially big.

This reason: the extended deadlines — and legislation that allows for certain payment plans is set to end.

Nearly 29,000 Wayne County residents, more than 22,000 in Detroit, are expected to sign up for some type of assistance related to delinquent 2013 taxes, including 8,400 people who took advantage of interest rate reductions, according to treasury officials.

To avoid foreclosures, thousands of property owners clutching folders and portfolios stuffed with papers went to 400 Monroe in Detroit.

They waited in line to take the elevator up to the eighth floor. They waited to get a number. They waited again in a large room for their numbers to be called. Then, they waited in lines to go to the fifth floor, where they waited in one more line to pay a cashier.

By about noon, the paper numbers had already reached 999, the end of the roll; and a new roll was started.

Many taxpayers, like Varadee Dunaskis, were frustrated.

“This arrangement is insane,” the River Rouge resident said. “I have the check, but I have to go through this zoo.”

Taxpayers had the option of paying online and by phone, but some, like Dunaskis, said they either didn’t trust or didn’t understand how to use the electronic systems.

“I’m 70 years old,” she said. “I hate the damn online stuff. It’s prejudice to older people.”

Dorshawn Turner, however, was more understanding.

“I’m good,” the 25-year-old Detroiter said of her long wait to get on a payment plan, as her two boys, 3 and 1, tried to entertain themselves. “I’m the one who waited until the last minute.”

But for some, a payment plan was not enough.

Jewell Spaulding, 27, said she walked for 1½ hours to get to the treasurer’s offices, but could not even afford a first installment on a payment plan. In desperation, she sat on a curb a couple of blocks from the offices, asking strangers as they walked by for money. She hoped to forestall foreclosure on the Detroit home she was living in — but did not own — with her 6-year-old son, sister, and her sister’s baby.

More than $3,200 is owed in taxes, she said, pulling, as proof, a crinkled letter from her bag. She said she had only met the homeowner once in three years, and was trying to buy the home. But, she added, if the taxes do not get paid, she and her family would be on the street.

avatar

Posted by Tribune News Services

Leave a Reply