ROGERS CITY - Presque Isle County officials and the county's auditor are working on a plan to save the county from having to borrow against back taxes each year.
Treasurer Bridget LaLonde is developing the plan as a way to save the county money in the long run. While the county potentially could make the change within a decade, just how it will achieve this has yet to be determined.
"The plan is in its infancy stages right now, as far as development," she said.
Any property taxes not paid by March 1 of each year are rolled over from townships to the county, LaLonde said. If they still aren't paid by April 1, the county takes out a bond to make up for the balance of those remaining back taxes. The townships get the unpaid balances, and the county pays back the bond by the end of the fiscal year.
LaLonde recently asked county commissioners for permission to borrow up to $2 million against delinquent taxes, later explaining this amount was deliberately high in case the county needed it. The county ultimately bonded for $1.45 million.
Rather than take out a bond each year, LaLonde and county commissioners want the county to fund itself when paying out delinquent taxes to townships. LaLonde and her deputy treasurers are working with the county's auditor to plan the switch.
"It's kind of a work in progress," she said. "We're working with the auditor, and he's in the process of reviewing some things. Hopefully within the next few months, he'll help incorporate this element into (the county's) financial plan."
By not borrowing money, the county could save $25,000 to $30,000 per year, LaLonde said. These figures represent how much the county pays on interest and borrowing costs.
The county potentially could be self-sustaining at the end of seven years, LaLonde said. In that time, the amount the county would need to borrow against delinquent taxes would get smaller and smaller. The county could make this happen by making numerous adjustments to lower the borrowing amount year after year.
While the details are still in the works, the county could use some of the revenue from auctioning tax-foreclosed properties to make the change, LaLonde said. This money goes into a foreclosure fund, and can be transferred into the general fund. Part of it must go to maintain unsold tax-foreclosed properties, and to cover filing fees and other costs associated with dealing with the properties.
While discussing her annual report with commissioners at the end of June, LaLonde said the county had $339,438 in proceeds from these land auctions. She recommended against transferring the money to the county's general fund.
Tax delinquencies have risen over the past several years, likely due to hard economic times, LaLonde said. However, she's hopeful this will change.