Post and pic by Jerry:
Today the Free Press has an article titled “Taxpayers, nonprofit foot bill for ads supporting incumbents in metro Detroit.” Turns out this also involves the Wayne County tax auction. Here’s an excerpt, emphasis added:
Advertisements or flyers from political candidates in the month before elections generally are paid for with money from the candidates’ supporters.
But taxpayers and a nonprofit group are helping carry positive messages from three incumbent county officials in Oakland and one in Wayne County. And it’s perfectly legal — at least for now.
Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner, a Democrat, has spent $60,000 on TV ads over the last three years that tell homeowners about the tax foreclosure auction and how to avoid foreclosure.
Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wotjowicz, also a Democrat, has a similar program and has an advertising budget of $300,000 to try to publicize the auctions to get rid of homes that are now owned by the county because property taxes hadn’t been paid.
Both men are prominently featured in TV commercials. Each said the ads more than paid for themselves through increased sales of tax-foreclosed homes.
“For years, we lost money in our auctions. Last year, when we started advertising, we went up to $33.5 million in sales and paid taxes,” said David Szymanski, Wayne County’s chief deputy treasurer. “That’s a pretty good return on investment.”
Meisner noted that the $60,000 ad buy brought in more than $22.6 million in auction sales and homeowners paying their delinquent taxes.
“The return on investment speaks for itself,” he said. “We took a very difficult time, when the county stood to lose a great deal of money and we’ve made lemonade from lemons.”
Last year was the second year that the tax auction happened online via Bid4Assets, and the first year that Why Don’t We Own This? mapped and tracked it.
We did it for free as a public service, and I remember after the auction someone calling and saying, “So when are you getting your check from the county, you must have made them $20 million.”
Well, we don’t know about that, but it is interesting.
Mary and I listen to WDET radio everyday, and they’ve been running the commercials saying that “in an effort to stabilize neighborhoods” they’re having the tax auction so please visit treasurer.waynecounty.com to see what’s going on. But no matter how many people follow an ad to the site, they won’t be able to see what’s going on. You go from here with the one tiny link to auction info:
To a page where you have to scroll way down to open up a 1,684 page PDF and spreadsheet that provides a text link of properties sorted by auction ID.
Similar story from the Bid4Assets site.
And to step back:
The total back taxes the county is trying to make up for at this year’s auction is roughly $250,000,000, or a quarter-billion dollars in Detroit alone. At last year’s auction they got $20-and-a-half million back from Detroit, which came from 1,133 people buying 5,815 out of 13,050 Detroit auction properties we tracked on WDWOT.
That’s a huge gap, both in money and in people not understanding what’s going on and in properties left behind. Just thought it was interesting that advertising is where the return on investment focus was, and how big the revenue gap is. I gotta go have a beer with the county auction guys. If anyone can hook that up please let me know.