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Posted on Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 5:20 p.m.

Washtenaw County Treasurer Catherine McClary: Pay what you can on property taxes

By Erica Hobbs

For residents in Washtenaw County, Treasurer Catherine McClary has a message: pay whatever you can on your property taxes.

McClary spoke this morning at the monthly Gray Panthers meeting, a group that promotes social and economic justice.

She said today’s economic times have led to an increase in tax foreclosures - a situation the county wants to prevent.

“I lose sleep when I have to foreclose on people,” she said.


Real Estate One agent Barry Kenyon stands inside a foreclosed house near Chelsea in this file photo from January 2008.

McClary said the county forecloses on about 11 homes every year, out of approximately 8,000 homes with delinquent taxes.

But this year, McClary said the number of homes foreclosed upon has increased to 45 out of about 12,000 delinquent houses.

“With the economy, it’s getting harder and harder to save people’s homes,” she said.

The key, she said, is communication with the county.

“Most people want to pay their taxes, but they have some type of problems that are prohibiting that,” she said.

McClary said her staff includes two social workers - a rarity for a treasurer’s office - who will work with property owners to prevent them from losing their homes.

Help available, she said, includes a variety of resources such as emergency loans and grants, legal assistance and budgeting and payment plans. Seniors, veterans and those who have been hit with particular hardship may also qualify for special assistance.

“If you don’t call us back, we can’t figure out how to help,” she said.

In addition, she said, treasurers at all of Washtenaw County's municipalities will accept partial payments on property taxes - a move that adds more paperwork for them, but can be extremely helpful for struggling property owners.

For properties that are foreclosed upon, McClary highlighted the new Washtenaw County Land Bank Authority, an agreement between the country treasurer and state intended to prevent blight in the community.

“We are entering an era where we are going to have many more foreclosures,” McClary said. “When a property is abandoned due to foreclosure, blight increases, crime increases and property values go down.”

McClary said the authority’s mission is to take abandoned properties and convert them back into “productive use,” which can mean repairing the property to increase its tax value or demolishing it to create a garden or other green space.

Still in its developing stages, McClary said the authority has yet to develop its official policies and doesn't yet have any money.

Starting next year, McClary said the authority will be acquiring the county’s abandoned properties and plans to get funding through grants, bank loans and land sales.

The authority is welcoming public input on the new program, she said. Those interested should call or email the Washtenaw County Treasurer’s Office.

Those who attended the meeting said they found the information helpful.

“(The presentation) was marvelous,” Ann Arbor resident Haskell Rothstein said. “I had no idea how the county was doing with foreclosures and (McClary) presented the information so clearly. I think she’s, socially, a very responsible public official.”

Amy Burgess, who was visiting from Louisiana, was impressed with local leadership.

“I’m just blown away by an example of good government,” she said. “It’s incredibly hopeful.”

Get help: For property tax assistance, contact the Washtenaw County Treasurer’s Office:

Tax Foreclosure Timeline for 2008 Taxes*


  • March 1: Unpaid taxes become “delinquent;” 4% administrative fee added; interest begins to accrue at 12 percent per year.
  • Oct. 1: $15 fee added.
  • Nov. 1: Parcel added to preliminary foreclosure list.


  • March 1: Property forfeited to county treasurer, minimum $205 in fees added; interest rate increased to 18% per year, retroactive from March 1, 2009.
  • June: Foreclosure petition filed in Circuit Court; notifications start to be sent to property owners, mortgage lenders and lienholders.


  • January: Show cause hearing held.
  • February: Court hearing held and judge signs foreclosure order.
  • March 31: Redemption rights expire if taxes are not paid and property ownership transfers to county treasurer.
  • July: Property sold at auction. Prior owner does not receive any of the proceeds.

* Information from the Washtenaw County treasurer.

Erica Hobbs is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 1:52 a.m.

McClary is heading to court for absconding with funds from her Mother's estate. How can the Taxpayers of Washtenaw County trust someone who steals from their own mother?


Tue, Nov 17, 2009 : 1:40 a.m.

McClary is heading to court for absconding with funds from her Mother's estate. How can the Taxpayers of Washtenaw County trust someone who steals from their own mother?


Tue, Nov 10, 2009 : 4:53 p.m.

Notice that the first name on the list of steering committee members for the Eastern Leaders is our County Administrator. It was our County Administrator who recommended the Board enact this tax increase, which primarily benefits... the Eastern Leaders!


Mon, Nov 9, 2009 : 2:04 p.m.

And yet last Wednesday--less than 24 hours after a resounding NO vote on the WISD millage--the Washtenaw County Board voted a tax *increase* to support, among other things, 4H and the "Eastern Leaders" (who or whatever they are). The Board voted 8-2 in favor, with only Ms. Judge and Mr. Prater recognizing constituent's wants and needs. Treasurer McClary appears to be a kind and compassionate person, but with the seeming utter lack of concern for struggling taxpayers shown by the "let them eat cake" County Board, she is in for many more sleepless nights.

Kristin Judge

Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 10:58 p.m.

We are very fortunate as a community to have the leadership and compassion of Treasurer McClary. She works tirelessly to help our residents. If you know anyone facing foreclosure tell them to call the Treasurer's office first.


Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 9:23 p.m.

We are entering an era where we are going to have many more foreclosures, McClary said. When a property is abandoned due to foreclosure, blight increases, crime increases and property values go down. -- I hope that all the people who voted for the WISD school millage digest this. It is sad to see from the comments on stories about the millage that many of you think it was a vote against public education. It doesn't take a millage, but does take a village to educate our children. There are a lot of smart people living in Washtenaw County. The challenges we face are not that bad compared with other communities AND given the caliber of the students we have to work with.

Go Blue

Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 8:54 p.m.

I think Catherine McClary should give lessons to all the lenders that are overloaded with foreclosures - maybe they could take a lesson from her in how to keep a homeowner in their home and stave off the river of homes going back to the bank. If the logic is half what her approach is, the impact could be significant. All it would take is for one lender to step forward and set the example. Maybe then we could start to turn this debacle around.

Laura Bien

Sat, Nov 7, 2009 : 7:20 p.m.

Kudos to McClary for taking a proactive approach in such a constructive and helpful manner. Sounds like others at the meeting were impressed as well.