Tax payment problems on the rise in Berrien County

Property tax payment problems are on the rise in Berrien County, and landowners aren’t the only ones falling behind.

A total of ten tax delinquent Benton Harbor boat slips will be sold for back taxes at the county’s delinquent tax auction scheduled for Tuesday, July 15th.

The Berrien County Treasurer says that’s “highly unusual.”

What's also worth noting is the sheer number of parcels that are tax delinquent this year—173.

That marks a 70% increase over last year.

“Any time the numbers go up, I mean our ultimate goal is to have zero,” said Treasurer Bret Witkowski. “When they go up it increases the load on everybody so I think from that aspect it’s not good.”

But the Treasurer does see some positive aspects to this year’s sale. A total of 35-tax delinquent properties in Benton Harbor are so run down that the county will tear them down—rather than put them up for sale.

The need to tear down tax delinquent properties is twice as great this year as it was last year.

One of the properties marked for demolition is on Broadway, next door to the home of the Tillman family. “It’s been abandoned since I’ve been here,” said Annette Tillman. “I had problems with the boards on the windows, it’s full of raccoons and all kind of possum, it needs to be torn down, they’re spray painting all over the house—gang related. They need to tear the house down.”

While there are many different reasons why property owners fall behind in tax payments, it appears that the single most common reason this year is Benton Harbor landlords walking away from rental properties.

“People maybe just got in over their heads,” said Witkowski. “In the era of buying property and being land barons and making quite a bit of money, it wasn’t maybe what it was a few years ago, what it is now.”

Witkowski also feels that the construction of several new homes in Benton Harbor has given residents there more choices.

Last years auction drew buyers from the likes of Houston and Atlanta, and out of towners are expected to have a presence this time around as well.

The auction will be held on Tuesday July 15th, at the DANK club in Sodus Township. For a complete list of properties that are ava liable you can visit the following website: http://www.berriencounty.org./treasurer/2008Auction.pdf


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