May 21, 2010


County aims to pair with city on tax auction

34 foreclosed properties would be sold alongside 27 in the city that owe back taxes

Staff Reporter

Cortland County officials hope to hold a joint auction with Cortland to sell the county’s 34 foreclosed properties as soon as possible and get them back on the tax rolls.
The city has not yet set a date for its auction but it would likely be at the end of June or early July.
County officials hope to know by Wednesday whether the foreclosed properties would be ready to be auctioned by then.
County Treasurer Pat O’Mara is confident the properties will be ready because they are in the final stage of foreclosure, which means the deeds only need to be signed over to the county.
In the meantime, O’Mara will send out requests for proposals from auctioneers.
Legislators at Thursday’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting directed O’Mara to submit the RFPs, and a special meeting of the committee could be called Wednesday to choose the auctioneer.
Legislators could hire the Whitney Point-based Manasse Auctioneers.
At Thursday’s meeting, O’Mara referred to a memo from city Director of Administration and Finance Bryan Gazda to the city Common Council, which recommends Manasse Auctioneers because of a 7 percent buyers premium and positive reviews from Broome and Tioga counties.
The firm will handle the city’s auction of 27 properties.
The county must follow its procurement policy and seek RFPs regardless of whether it holds the auction in conjunction with the city or holds its own.
Legislator Sandy Price (D-Harford and Virgil) said the county still has to decide the advantages and disadvantages of holding an auction jointly with the city.
“I think it is good for us as soon as the properties are ready if we put them out to auction and get them back on the tax rolls,” Price said.
County Attorney Ed Purser said 21 properties are ready to go to auction.
Thirteen additional properties still need to have their deeds signed over to the county’s name to complete the foreclosures.
O’Mara does not want to have two auctions.
“Now the deeds will come to me and I will sign them over to the county,” O’Mara said of the 13 properties that are not yet complete.
The properties have already been signed off by a judge that assures the title search was done correctly. The title search is an in-depth process that involves contacting all parties associated with the property.
The Rochester law firm Phillips Lytle handled the title search on these 13 properties, which were foreclosed on in 2008. The county authorized a one-year contract with Phillips Lytle in April 2009 to handle these foreclosure proceedings.
In April, the county did not rehire the firm, saying the work should be done in house by the Treasurer’s Office and county attorney.
Earlier this month Purser finalized the title transfers for 21 properties that became delinquent in 2007.
Last year Purser completed foreclosure work on 22 properties dating back to 2004, which were sold at auction in November 2009, netting the county approximately $185,550.
This figure does not consider the amount lost on taxes that were not paid during the years the properties were off the tax roll. Considering that loss, the county netted approximately $18,000 from the sales, O’Mara said.
According to O’Mara, in 2009 county taxpayers paid about $150,000 extra in property taxes because foreclosed properties were not auctioned off as quickly as they should have been and therefore not returned to the tax roll.
O’Mara said the assessed value of properties that should have been auctioned in 2009 was approximately $867,700.
According to the State Supreme Court, the 13 foreclosed properties have all been signed off by the judges.
Now the Treasurer’s Office must sign the deeds over in the county’s name.
Purser said he will not be involved in the deed transfer since Phillips Lytle is handling the transactions.
Cortland Mayor Susan Feiszli said that she hopes the county will approach the city’s auction committee, which is comprised of Gazda, City Assessor David Briggs and Deputy Director of Administration and Finance Lori Crompton, to see how they can work together.
“They need to work out the details... and work out any information they need,” Feiszli said.

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