ALPENA -Each year Alpena County pays delinquent tax payments from property owners to the local government units in which they live. Reimbursement back to the county can take up to three years, but once deposited it can be used for a many things, including balancing the annual budget.
During Wednesday's Alpena County Finance Committee meeting Treasurer Kim Ludlow gave an update on the fund and the money that was earned from the sale of property that was foreclosed upon due to non-payment of taxes.
Ludlow said there is currently $6,591.546 of unrestricted funds in the account. She said that is a healthy amount, but because money will be loaned to the city and townships for late taxes it is much less. She said in 2012 the county loaned the other units of government more than $2 million for late tax payment, and it will be several years before the money is returned to the fund and available to the commissioners.
"The money we loan them makes their budgets whole, that includes the college and the public schools," Ludlow said. "They come back into the fund when the people pay, but that doesn't happen overnight. Whatever doesn't get paid in the three years is the property we foreclose on and it is taken to the sale to sell and put the money back in the fund."
Last year the county had 40 properties at the auction, four that were granted extentions. Overall the sale of the property helped recoup $131,511 for the fund, but there was still a loss of $6,870 because not all of the property sold. Ludlow said although there is a large amount of money in the fund it needs to be used sparingly. She said over the last few years money was taken from it to balance the budget, but she recommends leaving as much money in the account in case of an emergency.
"It has taken well over a decade to have those funds built up and available and we work very hard to make sure those funds stay there," Ludlow said. "Right now we are supplying about $500,000 a year to the general fund and that has been going on for three years. We have still been able to maintain our balance, but we are real careful with that.
"It seems like a lot of money. You see six and a half million dollars, but when you loan out over two million every year and it takes three years to get back, it can be used up quickly."
Ludlow said she isn't sure how many properties will be up for auction this year, but a sale already is scheduled. She said Alpena, Presque Isle, Montmorency and Cheboygan counties will host a sale in Indian River on Aug. 17.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com