Frustrated Hundreds Jam Wayne County Treasurer’s Office In Last Minute Rush To Pay Tax Bills

DETROIT (WWJ) – About 1,500 people packed in like sheep in Detroit’s Greektown Monday — and 2,000 were expected Tuesday — not to gamble or to eat, but in a rush to pay their property tax bills.

Foreclosure processes would begin as soon as Tuesday night on Wayne County residents who failed to pay what they owe or may payment arrangements by the time the Treasurer’s Office closed at 5:30 p.m.

With hundreds of discontented Detroiters squeezed into a small space, the deadline had a lot of people scrambling…and complaining.

Mary Davis, who was prepared to pay her bill, spent the morning standing in not just one line, but: “Three! Yes, three very long lines.”

The process, she told WWJ’s Mike Campbell, was frustrating. “I had to wait to get in the elevator, sit down, wait for my number to be called to come down and stand in another line,” Davis said.

“You go to the eighth floor and get a number, and you wait til they call you to go to the fifth floor and make a payment,” explained resident Michael Jones, who believes the process could use a tweak.

It was a tough day, but it’s be worth the hassle, decided one Detroit woman: “We want to keep our property, so we have to do what we have to do,” she said.

Of the roughly 800,000 properties in Wayne County, at one point nearly 75,000 were headed for foreclosure, according to officials. More than 60,000 of the county’s 76,000 foreclosed properties are in Detroit, threatening neighborhoods hard hit by the national mortgage crisis; and about $326 million in taxes, interest and fees are owed on the foreclosed homes, lots and other buildings in Detroit.

Standing in line to pay taxes at the Wayne County Treasurer's Office. (credit: Mike Campbell/WWJ)

Standing in line to pay taxes at the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office. (credit: Mike Campbell/WWJ)

City officials fear that more foreclosures will only add to the glut of vacant houses in Detroit and blight that keeps potential homebuyers away.

Taxes have been paid in full for about 20,700 of the foreclosed properties, partly through the payment plan, according to Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski.

Of the 38,100 properties still facing foreclosure, only 15,900 are occupied.

“Those are the ones we want to get to,” Szymanski said.

City and county officials urged state lawmakers to pass foreclosure prevention bills and Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation in January to provide homeowners facing financial hardship with the option to sign up for a payment plan to avoid foreclosure. The bills also cut interest rates, reduced down payments and capped past due taxes.

Some confusing makeshift signage.  (credit: Mike Campbell/WWJ)

Some confusing makeshift signage. (credit: Mike Campbell/WWJ)

Szymanski said, thanks to the payment plan program, 21,000 have already squared things up; and another 13,000 are currently in the payment process.

“We’re working very hard to collect every delinquent dollar we can, because it’s those delinquent tax dollars that help fund police and fire protection, schools for our children, collection of trash, the street lights…and if we don’t collect the taxes we can’t pay for those,” Szymanski said.

TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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