An annual countywide property auction last week brought in $40,000 more this year than last, but county officials say the total could have been even more.
On Aug. 11, Sangamon County held its yearly public auction of properties with delinquent taxes, selling off 109 properties and raising $95,275 in revenue for the county. Last year’s sale brought in about $60,000.
“It was a better sale than the past couple of years, but it could have been our best yet,” says county treasurer Tom Cavanagh. The difference was the City of Springfield’s pre-sale purchase of 41 properties. Shortly before the auction, the city exercised its right as a taxing district to purchase properties before the public had a chance to bid, paying the minimum price of $600 on each property. A recording fee of $39 per property put the total price for all 41 properties at $26,199. Sangamon County assistant treasurer Mark Crawford says many of the properties purchased by the city are on Springfield’s east side.
Cavanagh says he would have liked for the city to wait until after the auction to purchase any remaining unsold properties on its list. That would have meant more cash for the county and other taxing districts – such as schools and parks – that rely on property taxes, Crawford notes. By acting ahead of the auction, however, the city apparently hoped to avoid the risk of those properties falling into the hands of slumlords or renovators who may have been unprepared to fix up a problem-heavy property.
City spokesman Ernie Slottag said the city intends to demolish the buildings on each property as part of an effort to eliminate dangerous eyesores. The city began stepping up enforcement of building code violations in 2008, but a cumbersome court system and a dearth of resources often impede the city’s work. Slottag says the city probably won’t actually take possession of the properties for 30 to 40 days, but some of the buildings purchased have already been demolished pursuant to a court order.
A property can wind up on the public auction block if its property taxes are not paid ahead of the county’s annual tax sale. At the tax sale, usually held in October, bidders may “purchase” the delinquent taxes and put a lien on the property until the back taxes are paid to the buyer with interest. After 30 months of unpaid property taxes, the county takes possession of them and sells them at public auction. There were originally 364 properties for sale at this year’s auction, but about 87 were removed early because their taxes were paid before the auction, Crawford says. With 87 removals, 41 properties purchased by the city and 109 sold at auction, an estimated 127 properties went unsold last week and will likely be held by the county until next year’s auction.
The biggest buyer at the auction was TSP-Hope, a Springfield-based nonprofit that demolishes abandoned houses and replaces them with new affordable housing. The group, which purchased nine properties last week, received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in September 2009 to demolish 25 abandoned houses and build 11 new ones [see “East side wins housing grant” Oct. 8, 2009].
Contact Patrick Yeagle at firstname.lastname@example.org.