Treasurer could add $82M to Wayne Co.’s general fund

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Wayne County’s Treasurer plans to transfer $82 million from the county’s delinquent tax revolving fund to the county’s general fund.

In an Oct. 8 letter to the Wayne County Commission, Treasurer Ray Wojtowicz said there is an $82 million surplus in the fund and will transfer it to the county’s general fund.

“I have had an opportunity to review the status of the Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund at July 31, 2015...,” he said in the letter. “... I am declaring a ‘surplus’ of $82,492,262 to be transferred from the DTRF to the General Fund.”

The 15-member county commission must approve a resolution to authorize the transfer. The first stop in the process is the resolution will have to be introduced and approved by the commission’s seven-member Ways and Means Committee. The committee is scheduled to meet next at 9 a.m. Thursday.

If the committee approves it, then it will forward it to the full board for its approval. The full commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday.

The transfer’s approval would also come four months after the commission authorized the Treasurer’s Office to transfer $78.7 million from the delinquent property tax fund to the county’s general fund.

County Commissioner Ray Basham, D-Taylor, welcomed Tuesday news of the possible transfer.

“It’ll mean we can shore up our pension fund,” he said. “It’ll mean we can continue to pay down debt and we can make payroll. It means we might even be able to buy a new snow plow.”

The county’s delinquent tax revolving fund began in 1977. Money in the fund comes from all delinquent property taxes the treasurer’s office collects for municipalities. The treasurer borrows money to float to communities, then collects interest, fines and fees from delinquent taxpayers. Over the years, the treasurer has collected a surplus of tens of millions.

The Treasurer’s Office has provided the county with more than a half of a billion dollars to the county’s general and capital projects funds since 1981, Wojtowicz also said in his letter to commissioners.

Transferring money from the delinquent tax fund to the general fund has been a source of friction between elected officials in the past.

In June, the commission and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans locked horns over using money from the fund to pay a $49 million legal judgment in favor of a county retiree fund.

The commission wanted to tap into the fund to pay the judgment, but Evans wanted a one-time property tax to cover it. Commissioners approved a measure to pay the judgment with money from the fund, but Evans vetoed it and the commission decided to not try to override his veto.

And last year, a $150 million transfer from the fund to help bolster the county’s budget sparked sparring between the Treasurer’s Office and then-Auditor General Willie Mayo. Mayo argued the fund should be controlled by the county commission, but the Treasurer’s Office disagreed, saying it needed to manage the money to continue lending programs that help the county’s municipalities.

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