CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County is now $578 million behind in collecting delinquent property taxes according to a report obtained exclusively by NewsChannel 5 Investigators.
The 170-page report issued by the Vacant and Abandoned Property Action Council indicates tax delinquencies involving residential properties have more than doubled to $214 million in just the past four years.Property taxes owed by Cuyahoga County businesses have also doubled since 2010.
Council Chairman Frank Ford told newsnet5.com cash-strapped cities like Cleveland, Maple Heights and East Cleveland desperately need the growing amount of uncollected property taxes to meet basic city services like police, fire and road repair.
Ford pointed to what he called a key reason for the dropping enforcement in collecting delinquent taxes.
The report indicated the staff at the Cuyahoga County Treasurer’s office has been cut from 83 employees in 2010 to just 37 in 2014.
We took the study to recently elected Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, who received a copy of the report on Feb. 27.
Budish’s office issued the following statement in response to our story:
“These are important issues that we take very seriously. We received this study just this week and intend to review and fully understand its contents. We look forward to working with our partners and housing advocates to find solutions.”
Ford believes growing property tax delinquencies should be one of the top issues the new county executive should address as quickly as possible.
“There is no questions the county needs to collect these property taxes because we need it for schools, we need it for police, fire, municipalities that are stressed by their budgets,” said Ford. “You wouldn’t expect to see a shrinkage in the staff at the county to address that.”
Just last week, NewsChannel 5 Investigators pressed Cuyahoga County officials about the lack of tax collection enforcement on East Cleveland property owner Robert Lyons Jr.
We obtained property tax records indicating Lyons owes $1.1 million in property taxes on several apartments to cash-strapped East Cleveland.
Lyons came to the attention of newsnet5.com after residents at the Lyons owned Beverly Terrace went without heat for nearly two weeks. Lyons owes tens of thousands in back taxes at that property.
Lyons is now being taken to East Cleveland Municipal court on March 11.