updated 5/25/2009 2:17:08 PM ET 2009-05-25T18:17:08

A Detroit city council member paid only $68 in property taxes this year because city records showed her home doesn't exist.

JoAnn Watson, 58, said she was unaware of a city records discrepancy that has, for the past decade, listed her house as an empty lot even though the brick Tudor-style home has been occupying the plot since 1926, according to a story Sunday in the Detroit Free Press.

Watson said she receives her property tax bill separate from her mortgage bill and never questioned why her taxes dropped — or why they didn't increase when she repaired her home after a tornado.

She said she noticed the drop in her property tax bill, which she handles herself, but assumed it was because the tornado left a hole in her roof and damaged the home's foundation.

"I pay the taxes. All I know is I had a big drop when my house got hit hard by a tornado," Watson said. "We had great damage."

The Free Press reported that Watson bought the home on a land contract in 1990 and agreed to pay $40,000. Assessors calculated the property's current value at $1,658 because they considered it a vacant lot.

Linda Bade, the city's chief assessor, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Watson said she believed the reduction in taxes was the result of her home's falling value. But she acknowledged that she had the home appraised to obtain a $60,000 mortgage in 2002.

She said she assumed the appraisers "used their financial wizardry" to help her get the loan. She also said she was not involved in the reduction and that it occurred before she was elected to City Council.

Watson, whose annual salary is $81,000, requested a review of her tax bill Friday.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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