LAKE COUNTY — Lake County officials are closely following legislation which could impact one way the county receives funds.

The Michigan House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on Senate Bill No. 386 in mid-October — a bill which Lake County Chief Deputy Treasurer Kellie Allen said would allow anyone with interest on a foreclosed property to collect remaining money in an auction instead of these funds going to the county, as is current procedure.

Allen presented her concerns about the bill to Lake County Commissioners during their meeting on Sept. 27,  saying these funds help support the county.

“The treasurer’s office is following this legislation closely,” she said. “Anyone who has interest in a foreclosed property, including extended family, can pull the property and take the money going over the bid during an auction. If the bill passes, it is going to make it difficult for the county to get proceeds from an auction. People who lose a house can get the proceeds — they will be rewarded for not paying taxes. An example is if we foreclose on a house at $5,000 and the highest bid is $25,000, the property owner gets $20,000 instead of the county.”

Some county residents, such as Mark Naidow, are in favor of the bill, and feel the proceeds from a land auction should go back to the property owners.

“The property owner should get the money,” he said. “There are many foreclosures in the Baldwin and Idlewild areas. I knew someone who was broke and tried to make payments on their property, but ended up $400 short. This person lost their property after living there 15 years. Passage of this bill may help incidents like these to happen less.”

The commissioners joined 39 other counties in Michigan passing a resolution of disapproval regarding Senate Bill No. 386.

Allen explained some of the negative impacts passage of the bill could have on the county.

“Right now, the county is self-funded, and if the bill passes, we won’t be,” Allen said. “When we get money from foreclosed property, we make sure all units in the county are made financially whole, such as schools, townships and senior programs, and this would negatively impact the funding for these. The treasurer’s office pays these departments to help their budgets.

“This money also helps with county projects, such as cleaning blight. We would not have made the progress we did on burning the old Cajun Bayou restaurant on the Wash King contamination site if it weren’t for these funds. Also, the process to foreclose property is very expensive, and if this bill were to pass, we wouldn’t be able to use this money towards these expenses.”

Lake County Treasurer Brenda Kutchinski explained her concerns.

“Many residents have been noticing progress on sites we have been able to clean up using these funds, such as the Wash King site. The passage of the bill would definitely make the county go backwards,” she said. “We are trying to get the House to say no. It would be devastating to our county if this bill were to pass.”

Amy Patterson, Chase Township clerk, said she understands the county’s stance on wanting to use the money for funding, but she feels the money should go back to the property owner.

“Working in local government, I see where the county is coming from — it is hard to run things and find funding, but the county shouldn’t use money that isn’t rightfully theirs,” she said. “If a person spends $50,000 on a home, but falls $5,000 behind, the money they paid should go back to them or the bank — whoever gets it — and the county should just get what is owed to them. Let’s say if my mom owns a house and falls on hard times and dies, the money shouldn’t go to the county, but should go to her children. I can see where it would be easy to fall on hard times, especially because Lake County is the poorest county in the state. People get hard up.”

John Duffing said the bill will help make allowances for people going through hardships.

“The owner should get back any money due,” he said. “If a person buys a house and pays for 15 or so years, and they end up losing a job, or cannot work for medical reasons and end up losing their house, it leaves them in an even worse predicament.”

Lake County residents can express their concerns on either side of the issue by contacting Rep. Scott VanSingel, R-Grant. He can be reached in his office at (517) 373-7317 or by email at ScottVanSingel@house.mi.gov.