Oct 14, 2010

Another case of mismanagement by the GOP Board of Commissioners

The all Republican Livingston County Board of Commissioners has mishandled the home foreclosure crisis in Livingston County, which has the highest rate of property tax foreclosures in the region, Democratic candidates for county commission stressed on Thursday.

By choosing to rely on the state government in Lansing to handle foreclosure sales, the county has received lower sale prices for the properties relative to the prices received from other counties which handle their own foreclosure sales. At the same time, the county has failed to do anything to stop the foreclosures by not setting up foreclosure-prevention programs.

A recent state auction for tax foreclosed properties yielded only $307,311 in sale prices on properties with minimum required bids totaling $5.2 million. Livingston County Treasurer Dianne Hardy reported those figures to the Commission’s Debt Management subcommittee at its meeting on Tuesday.

With one of every 39 properties in foreclosure in the county, Livingston County should be handling its own tax foreclosure auctions, said Keith Tianen of Putnam Township , Democratic candidate for County Commissioner in District 6. Data from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) said Livingston County ’s foreclosure rate was second only to Wayne County ’s in southeast Michigan. Tianen said Livingston is one of only 12 counties in the state that does not handle its own tax-foreclosed property auctions.

“When a county handles its own tax foreclosures, it takes extra care to market and prepare the properties,” Tianen said. “A county can get, and does get, a better price than the state does. Further, a strong foreclosure preventive program will greatly reduce the number of foreclosures.

“These programs have been shown to be cost-effective for both homeowners and county government,” he said “When the county handles its own tax foreclosures, if the tax auction generates revenue above taxes owed, the county keeps the money to use for local needs, instead of it going to the state.

Unfortunately, Tianen said, Livingston County missed the boat. Up until a few years ago, Michigan law allowed counties to choose to handle their own foreclosures, but that window is now closed. As a commissioner, Tianen said he would push Livingston County ’s legislative delegation for a measure that would reopen the opportunity for counties to handle their own tax-foreclosed property auctions.

Democratic State Representative candidate Garry Post running in the 47th District, said that he would introduce such a measure in Lansing when elected, so that Livingston County could handle its own tax foreclosures if requested to do so by the board. Democrat James Delcamp, candidate for the 66th State House seat, said he would join in co-sponsoring such a measure.

In the meantime, Tianen said, the county should at least set up foreclosure prevention and assistance programs. Currently, Tianen said, Livingston County residents facing foreclosure are referred to the Oakland-Livingston Human Service Agency’s (OLSHA) program forcing residents to travel to Pontiac.

“A high foreclosure rate, coupled with no local initiatives, results in excessive revenue losses for the county,” Tianen said.

The Livingston County Daily Press and Argus reported in September that Livingston County had 195 properties up for tax foreclosure auction in Lansing , far more than Clinton , Branch, Eaton, and Shiawassee counties combined. Patricia Simon of the Treasury Department’s Property Services Division, was quoted by the Press and Argus as saying Livingston County had the greatest rate of property foreclosures in the Michigan Dept. of Treasury’s southern region.

Michigan Radio reported today, that Michigan has 25 percent more foreclosures today than this time last year, while the national average went down. Because Livingston County has the second highest foreclosure rate in southeast Michigan and the highest tax foreclosures in the south central region, and because this worsening crisis has been mishandled and ignored by Republican County Commissioners for years, the time is overdue for effective new leadership at the County Board of Commissioners.

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