Counties dealing with unpaid taxes

ALPENA Landowners failed to pay 2011 property taxes on more than 1,000 parcels of real estate in the region, and today face additional penalties, fines and interest.

While the exact figures aren’t known yet, Alpena County property owners missed the 4:30 p.m. Thursday deadline for more than 400 parcels, Treasurer Kimberly Ludlow said. Last year’s figure was also around 400.

In Alcona County, owners of 130 parcels of land now face forfeiture there, Treasurer Cheryl Franks said. She said this represents more than $88,000 in revenues for the county. Approximately 29 full-time residents are behind on their taxes for 2010, but have until April 1 to avoid the second phase, which is foreclosure.

“We’ve been in contact one way or another with pretty much everyone, by mail and phone calls,” she said.

In Montmorency County, owners of 358 properties failed to pay their taxes, Treasurer Karen Tyler said.

In Presque Isle, more than 1,100 delinquent tax notices were sent out earlier this year, and the treasurer’s office handled a steady stream of property owners who were making payments Thursday. But Treasurer Bridget LaLonde, who has been in the post since January, said she didn’t know the final number yet.

However, there is help in Alcona and Presque Isle counties because Franks and LaLonde signed on for a new property tax loan program being offered by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Called Step Forward Michigan, the program provides loans to homesteaded property owners who live on their real estate year round. Those who qualify can receive up to $30,000 toward their unpaid taxes, although the money is paid directly from the MSHDA to mortgage lenders, and then on to county coffers.

Considered a loan, 20 percent of the amount is forgiven each year for five years, as long as the resident occupies the home, officials said. At the end of that period, the homeowner owes nothing and the county still receives payment.

Presque Isle and Alcona counties tucked aid notices in with the delinquent tax forms they mailed out earlier this year.

Alpena County didn’t.

Ludlow said Alpena isn’t participating yet because she hasn’t had enough time to study the issue.

“It’s going to be so hard for people to qualify and they may only get one or two people,” Ludlow said.

Alpena County Commissioner Cameron Habermehl said he was unaware of the program, and thought there are other options.

“The program isn’t really for low-income people,” he said.

Montmorency also is holding off on signing up, again to examine the benefits.

The program does have some glitches, LaLonde said.

“It’s a good program, because it allows people to stay in their homes,” she said.

One issue is that residents can only apply online. However, those without Internet access can use computers in public libraries around the area.

LaLonde also recommended residents contact counselors with Northeast Michigan Affordable Housing, Inc., because it increases the chances of success. Counselors also can tell residents about other programs available to help them pay their mortgages if they have fallen behind because of layoffs, divorce, illness or other hardships.

The online form asks these questions to start the process:

* Is this your primary residence?

* Do you have more than six times your monthly mortgage payment available in your deposit accounts?

* Has a foreclosure sale already been completed?

* Have you or your spouse been convicted in connection with a mortgage or real estate transaction within the last 10 years, of any one of the following: (A) felony larceny, theft, fraud or forgery, (B) money laundering or (C) tax evasion?

* Have you experienced an involuntary and verifiable significant loss of income due to unemployment or financial distress?

* Do you currently have any household income? (employment, retirement, Social Security, unemployment income, other state or federal benefits)

Property owners also must be U.S. citizens, provide copies of their property tax notices, complete a financial worksheet and offer evidence of hardship, according to the website.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693.