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Detroit council president wants answers on overtaxed homeowners

Mark Hicks  |  The Detroit News

Following a Detroit News-led investigation of tax debt and the city's inflated property assessments, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones is seeking answers from the city on the scope of the problem and possible solutions.

"Late last week, I read in the newspaper, like many Detroit residents, that the city had overtaxed numerous homeowners by an average of at least $3,700 to the sum of over $600 million, between the years 2010 and 2016," Jones wrote on her Facebook page Monday. "This was the first I heard of this unfair situation."

An investigation by The Detroit News found the city overtaxed homeowners by at least $600 million after it failed to accurately bring down property values in the years following the Great Recession.

In addition, nearly 1 in 4 Detroit homeowners owes more in delinquent property taxes as of fall 2019 than they did three years before, despite being a part of a county program designed to help them out of debt and avoid foreclosure, according to The News.

The News analysis, which was completed with help from Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, is the first to estimate how much Detroit homeowners were overtaxed. 

In her Facebook message, Jones said she had requested representatives from the city Office of the Assessor and Finance Department to attend a council meeting on Tuesday morning. She also said she submitted a memo to the city administration "on the plans to make whole residents that have been impacted by this unfair assessment."

According to the memo addressed to the city's deputy CFO/treasurer and corporation counsel, Jones asked to learn the total value of over-assessed property taxes in Detroit; how many properties had been over-assessed; any plans to help residents who were  over-assessed on their property taxes; as well as the possibility of providing relief options such as tax credits or extended payment plans with lower payments and no interest.

"Reveal," aired nationally and produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, has been working with The Detroit News and freelance reporter Mark Betancourt on the investigation of tax debt and the inflated property assessments. 

Detroit's property tax debt crisis will be the focus of an hour-long episode of the radio show Reveal, airing Tuesday on WDET, 101.9 FM. Listen at 2 a.m., 2 p.m. or 11 p.m. Tuesday on WDET 101.9 FM.