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Detroit City Council explores compensation for over-taxed homeowners

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Detroit needs to find some way to compensate homeowners who were over-taxed for years.

That’s what the Detroit City Council heard from a number of residents at a sometimes-emotional hearing Tuesday night.

Detroit admits that it failed to adjust property assessments and taxes as property values tumbled after the Great Recession, and that many Detroiters paid too much. But there’s disagreement over exactly how long that went on, and what to do about it.

Former Detroit Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams told council members the city can’t move on without providing some kind of redress.

“What we’re faced with here is a test of courage,” Adams said. “Whether the council and the mayor are going to return the money that was overpaid.”

Officials from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office said the city believes it would be illegal to directly repay overtaxed homeowners at this point. But they said the administration is exploring alternative forms of compensation.

Duggan maintains the bulk of the over-assessment problem was corrected in 2014, when he first took office. Others say the problem continued for at least several more years: a Detroit News investigation found Detroit homeowners were overtaxed by at least $600 million from 2010-2016. In an apparent turnabout, the administration now says any compensatory program would be open to any Detroiters who can prove they were over-assessed.

The City Council is set to take up a measure that would provide specific forms of redress, including a tax credit for the over-taxed, next week.

Detroiter Valerie Burris told the Council her and her mother-in-law’s home were over-taxed by thousands of dollars. She said the city needs to come up with policies that will “make us whole.”

“$600 million of wealth of mostly Black people have been stolen and transferred into private profiteers’ hands,” Burris said. “That is the issue.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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