Cuyahoga Co. residential tax delinquencies approaching $250 million

CLEVELAND - Cuyahoga County residential tax delinquencies are now over $238 million, according to a recent report, and some Cleveland leaders believe they show no signs of shrinking.

Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek told News 5 there are now more than 40,000 properties in Cuyahoga County that are not current with their property taxes.

Polensek said the county needs to do a better job in collecting, and shouldn't be asking residents for a plastic bag fee and an increase in vehicle registrations until it improves tax collections.

"You're constantly saying you don't have the money, but you've got all this outstanding property taxes you're not foreclosing on," said Polensek. "They've got to go after these delinquent properties, go after them, put them up for sheriff's sale.  There comes a point here, you can't keep asking the rest of us to raise our taxes all the time, and then you have all these delinquencies."

Former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis told News 5 tax delinquencies have doubled in the past five years, and that a severe reduction in county staffing back in 2010 is a key reason why.

"The county treasures office went from an office that employed about 80 people, to an office that ultimately employed about 30 people," said Rokakis.

"When there is nobody answering the phone at the other end and your basically dealing with a series of prompts and long waits, and you're being shuttled to people that really can't help you enter into a contract payment plan, this is what happens."

News 5 contacted Cuyahoga County Treasurer Chris Murray, and he reports the county is making improvements through tax lien sales, financial counseling and its EZ-Pay system.

Murray admitted more improvements are needed and said it took years to get into this situation, and it will take some time to get out of it.

Murray said he'll soon be working with suburban mayors to help reach those who are behind.

Meanwhile, Polensek said better delinquent tax collections can't come soon enough.

"Why should we pay more, if more and more people aren't being put on a payment plan," said Polensek.

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