“We’re very aggressive about collecting taxes during bankruptcy,” says county treasurer Catherine McClary. “We get virtually 100 percent of the money owed–and we work closely with cities and the townships to make sure they get their claims in on time, too.” In her fourteen years in office, McClary says, “there’ve been only two cases where we didn’t collect” property taxes from a bankrupt company. One was the failure of the Jacobson’s department store chain in 2002–she says the county and other governmental units lost $6,000 on that one. The other was at a gas station out on Jackson. “The owner and the city really got into it,” McClary remembers. “The city required he not have awnings over his pumps, but his contract required him to have awnings, so there was a huge period of time when he simply couldn’t be in business. We lost $2,000 countywide on that one.”
While those losses “are very, very minuscule” compared to the county’s projected $63 million in revenue next year, McClary vows to continue to guard the public’s money. “People going through bankruptcy are in tremendous pain,” she allows, “but the law has very specific rules about who gets paid first.