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Tax man cometh

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Wayne County loves you, and understands your problems — but you’ve gotta pay your property taxes, hoss. Or come up with a real good explanation. And we mean, like, really good.

That was the message at an administrative show cause hearing that took place at the International Center in downtown Detroit last week. News Hits was on hand to hear explanations from hundreds of Wayne County residents whose taxes have not been paid since 2001 or earlier. According to Raymond Wojtowicz, Wayne County’s treasurer, there are 11,000 parcels of land in his jurisdiction whose real property taxes have remained unpaid for two or more years.

“And about 80 percent of them are in Detroit,” says Terrance Keith, principal attorney for Wayne County Corporation Counsel, as if the sheer number isn’t bad enough.

Asked why so many are in Detroit, Keith cited the economy as the main reason. Indeed, many of the people who testified last week cited various financial hardships.

But Kurt Metzger, research director for Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Studies, says that is not the only cause. Detroit, explains Metzger, is suffering from a history of flight. “Over the last 15 years, Detroit’s lost well over 150,000 residents. It’s been wholesale abandonment of the city,” he says. “Throw in Highland Park and Inkster, and you’ve probably covered 95 percent” of the county.

The majority of the people who showed up did so only to have their fears of possibly losing their homes affirmed. For the most part, the county, with sincere voice and arms outstretched, heard their cries, listened intently, and then said pay up.

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