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Wayne County Begins Round Of Tax Foreclosures

DETROIT (AP) - Wayne County has begun tax foreclosure proceedings on nearly 75,000 properties as efforts take place at the state and local level to cut down on the number of people affected.

The number of planned foreclosures includes thousands of delinquent accounts that officials ignored for years, The Detroit News reported. Treasury workers last month began posting notices on properties that the county plans to auction next fall if owners don't pay taxes or agree to payment plans.

There are 62,000 properties in Detroit owing $326.4 million in taxes, interest and fees that are set to be foreclosed upon. Motor City Mapping data analyzed by Loveland Technologies says about 37,000 of those Detroit properties are occupied. Countywide, tax foreclosures are up 34 percent from 56,000 last year.

"It's just heartbreaking ... to think they may snatch my house because I got a little behind," said Sharon Weatherly, a single mother on disability who uses a wheelchair. She faces foreclosure over the $3,700 she owes.

"I need to take care of this," Weatherly said. "It's not something I am ignoring, but in life, comes hardship."

The state's Step Forward Michigan program is expected to have funding through the end of 2016 to help struggling homeowners pay tax bills.

Meanwhile, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he is working with county Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz and legislators to push policy changes to "head off large chunks of foreclosures." He said he hopes to have measures approved in Lansing by the end of the year.

"We are deeply involved in strategies to address all of this," Duggan said. "Our primary goal is to keep people in their homes."

The increase is largely because of a policy shift by Wojtowicz, who has decided to foreclose on all properties that are late on taxes at least three years. By law, those properties are to be foreclosed upon, but since 2005 Wojtowicz hasn't taken action on properties with smaller tax bills - $1,500 to $1,700 per year - because he said he lacked the staff.

"The earlier we get to people, the more likely we will be successful" in getting them in a payment plan," Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski said. "We aren't doing this to be mean. We are doing this to be helpful."

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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