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City Treasurer Spencer Coggs' new proposal hopes to obtain vacant tax delinquent properties before they become eyesores. (PHOTO: Milwaukee NNS/Shantanu Singh)

Treasurer Coggs targets vacant properties in stable neighborhoods

City Treasurer Spencer Coggs announced today that he will pursue an accelerated process to obtain eligible vacant tax delinquent properties in stable neighborhoods before they become eyesores.

"This will go a long way in preventing further deterioration of the housing stock in some of Milwaukee's poorest neighborhoods. If a property is vacant and eligible for tax foreclosure, under this proposal it will not be referred to the City's collection law firm for collection, as is the normal second phase procedure. Instead, my office will pursue an in rem tax foreclosure to save the property from spiraling downward from deterioration," said Treasurer Coggs.

Treasurer Coggs' 2016 department budget request seeks additional funding to accelerate in rem tax foreclosure on tax delinquent vacant properties.

The Great Recession of 2008 has precipitated many more mortgage foreclosures within the City of Milwaukee resulting in a number of vacant and abandoned homes. Having these vacant homes continuing to be a blight in an otherwise prosperous neighborhood creates the conditions for the neighborhood to become destabilized.

Since 2003, the Office of the City Treasurer has used a three phase tax enforcement process that maximizes tax collections, while minimizing delinquency and property acquisition.

The first phase of the tax enforcement process is in-house collection by the City Treasurer's Office from February through October of the year taxes are due. This phase includes a series of four collection letters from the City Treasurer and culminates in a collection letter under the signature of an Assistant City Attorney.

In the second phase, tax accounts that remain unpaid at the end of October are referred to the City of Milwaukee collection law firm, the Kohn Law Firm, for a period of twelve months where the collection law firm works the accounts, makes payment arrangements and pursues civil suit judgments against the property owners where deemed advisable under the established City guidelines. In harder to collect cases, the collection law firm pursues post judgment remedies, such as wage garnishments and rent attachments.

In the third and final phase, and as a last resort, the City Treasurer's Office pursues what is called an in rem tax foreclosure against those properties that continue to remain tax delinquent. Failure to pay the outstanding delinquent property taxes during the foreclosure process results in the City acquiring the property.

This three phase tax enforcement process has proven successful, as the City Treasurer collects 98 cents of every City tax dollar levied.

Homeowners should benefit from the early intervention from the City of Milwaukee in protecting their investment. "This new initiative is designed to keep communities more cohesive by not allowing one vacant home to bring down the property values of the entire neighborhood," said Treasurer Coggs.

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