OSWEGO — Oswego homeowners behind on their property taxes now have two years, not four, to make good on their payments before the city begins foreclosure proceedings.

On Tuesday the Oswego Common Council, in a 5-0 vote with two councilors absent, amended the city tax code to align its foreclosure process with Oswego County. The county Legislature last month expedited its ability to acquire properties through foreclosure to two years instead of four.

No locals spoke during a hearing on the matter before Tuesday night’s vote.

“This is beneficial for taxpayers of the city and beneficial to the homeowners themselves,” said Councilor Nate Emmons, R-3rd Ward, noting with interest piling up, homeowners “can dig a significant hole to get out of.”

The quicker foreclosure process, Emmons said, will allow councilors and officials to work with homeowners in a more timely fashion to establish payment agreements as opposed to the current process, which sees timely taxpayers subsidizing those who are delinquent.

Several officials noted the taxes owed to city hall total almost $2.5 million going back to 1998, presenting councilors with an automatic shortfall they must grapple with on an annual basis during budget season.

“It’s important to be consistent,” Mayor Billy Barlow said after Tuesday’s meeting. “It also helps the city with budgeting so we know what’s out there (in unpaid taxes), and moves that process through sooner.”

The mayor and Emmons have argued that history shows residents behind on their taxes beyond two years usually don’t catch up on their payments.

Barlow also noted the new foreclosure policy could help turnaround the city’s housing stock as officials work in unison with the Oswego County Land Bank Corporation.

The land bank over the last year has been acquiring and repurposing or demolishing dilapidated properties throughout the region.

Council President Eric Van Buren, R-6th Ward, recently noted property owners already in the middle of foreclosure proceedings would still be under the four-year policy. 

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