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Cook County treasurer says vacant and abandoned properties eat up tax revenue and wants to make it easier to sell them – CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) – Thousands of abandoned and vacant properties are costing Cook County taxpayers billions in lost tax revenue.

Efforts are underway to get the money back, CBS 2 political investigator Dana Kozlov reported Friday night.

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They just sit there – vacant, partially derelict properties that have been abandoned, or vacant lots where the structures have been demolished in one way or another. There are unpaid taxes associated with these properties, and according to Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, the lost tax revenue adds up to $5 billion.

That’s more than a fifth of Cook County’s current budget.

“When you look at these numbers, they’re terrifying,” Pappas said.

That’s why Pappas is trying to get more people interested in buying the property. Every two years, the district holds what is known as a scavenger sale – which is equivalent to an auction of all properties with at least three years of unpaid property taxes.

This year there are more than 31,000 objects on the auction list. Previously anyone who wanted a copy of this list had to shell out over $250.

“So we scratched that,” Pappas said.

It is now available free of charge on the district treasurer’s website, along with an interactive map to make it easier for potential buyers.

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“When more people are in tax sales roles; When more people pay more money, the other people already living in houses pay less,” Pappas said. “So this is a question of economic development.”

Maywood is one of several communities with dozens of properties on the list. The Mayor welcomes the Treasurer’s steps. But waiving that $250 fee isn’t as easy as waving a magic wand — because there’s a law that requires it.

“My legal team looked at it and I said, ‘Can I waive this $250 fee?'” Pappas said. “And they said yes.”

Auction bids start at $250. Once a property is purchased, the original owner has a certain amount of time to pay back taxes.

Failing this, the property goes to the scrap buyer who pays the taxes.

“What you want to do is make it economically attractive for somebody to build on it or live on it,” Pappas said.

The auction will be held at the George W. Dunne Cook County Office Building, 69 W. Washington St. over two weeks beginning on Valentine’s Day. Every day properties from certain cities are auctioned.

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You can register on the Cook County Treasurer’s website.

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