Saturday Shorts: Counties keep people in their homes

The Detroit News

Wayne County and Detroit aren’t the only metro areas where property tax foreclosure is a brewing issue as the March 31 deadline nears.

Macomb and Oakland counties also work hard to help people in danger of losing their homes.

Macomb County has had great success in shrinking its list of foreclosures. Officials report that each year about 30,000 parcels of land or about 8-9 percent of the property owned in the county is in danger of foreclosure. However, through numerous efforts ranging from the establishment of payment plans to offering residents tax deadline extensions and some tax deferrals, the number dwindles to only about 400 foreclosures.

Meanwhile, Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner said his staff has conducted one-on-one meetings with almost 3,000 people facing foreclosure and have also worked out payment plans. He expects to have to foreclose on only 700-800 parcels.

All three counties have excellent programs and have worked diligently to assist people with foreclosure problems but residents must take the first step and ask for help.

Looking ahead to avoid financial problems

Because of the expected skyrocketing cost of 911 equipment, the Village of Milford may outsource its emergency dispatch operations to either Oakland County or Novi.

Village Manager Christian Wuerth says Milford will take the next six months to a year to gather information. The estimated cost of new equipment is large for a community the size of Milford. Wuerth says the improvements may total up to $500,000 over the next five years. Coupled with the fact the technology will be outdated in just a few years, city officials are examining their options. The village’s goal is simple; it wants to maintain its 24-7 dispatch coverage. How it is provided shouldn’t matter as long as it is done economically.

Milford should be applauded for taking this proactive approach and officials should not hesitate to outsource once all the numbers are obtained. Fire and police dispatch is a basic public safety service that communities should provide with no extra millage allocation. When finances get tight, outsourcing is more than a viable alternative.

Expensive, inefficient financial alternative

All communities can learn a valuable lesson from Taylor — don’t rely on state or federal assistance to finance your basic public safety services.

However, Taylor doesn’t seem to have learned the lesson. City officials laid off 10 firefighters after roughly $8 million in federal grant money expired. But they postponed 15 more layoffs until June, when they will find out if their application for a new federal grant is approved.

The original grant received in 2012 was seen as a stopgap measure until the city got out of debt. It worked to the extent that today the city has a small fund balance but it’s still foolishly looking to the federal government when it should be looking at other options.

Fire and police protection are basic services that should be financed through regular taxes, not extra millage levies nor especially through temporary grants. Consolidation and shared services are avenues to be explored when financing gets tight. Taylor should look at these proven areas if officials want to stabilize their fire department funding.