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Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010 01:00 am

City snatches up properties before public auction

Minimum price paid on 41 buildings and lots

Just days before they were scheduled for public auction, 41 properties with delinquent taxes were bought up by the City of Springfield.

Sangamon County assistant treasurer Mark Crawford says the city exercised its right as a taxing district to purchase a long list of properties in Springfield for which property taxes have not been paid to the county. The properties, many of which are on the city’s east side and are likely destined for demolition, were to be sold at a public auction on Aug. 11.

By acting before the sale, the city paid the minimum price of $600 for each property, for a total of $24,600. That doesn’t include minor fees associated with each sale, Crawford says. Had the city waited until the auction, it would have had to bid for each house and probably would have had to pay more per house. Crawford says the county originally asked the city to wait until after the auction to purchase the properties that remained; that would have meant more tax revenue for other taxing districts within the county, such as schools, fire protection, parks and more.

City spokesman Ernie Slottag said the city intends to demolish the buildings on each property as part of an effort to eliminate dangerous eyesores. He 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 buys the properties at the maximum 18 percent and sells them at public auction. There were originally 364 properties for sale at this year’s auction, but about 87 have been removed because their taxes were paid, Crawford says. Only about 20 of the properties on the auction list were outside of Springfield, he notes.

Last year’s auction brought in about $60,000, Crawford says, adding that it was a “low year.” This year, he expects proceeds to be higher.

“We initially had more structures than usual this year,” Crawford says. “We’re hoping for a good turnout.”

The auction is to be held at 7 p.m. on Aug. 11 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield. Details can be found at the Sangamon County Treasurer’s website: http://co.sangamon.il.us/Offices/treas/treasurer-Surplus.asp.

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