Crackdown for overdue water bills

T he village Board of Trustees took the first step toward recovering delinquent funds from water users who reside outside of the village.

The board passed a resolution Monday night that gives it the authority to discontinue water services to any resident living outside the village whose water bill is more than 30 days late.

Mayor Peter Telisky is expected to draft and mail a letter to users who owe money. They will have 30 days from the time the letter was mailed to make arrangements with the village to pay the bill.

If they haven’t paid the bill in full by Sept. 30, users will be given five days notice, at which point their water service will be shut off.

Telisky said the issue has been an ongoing problem but officials only recently discovered the extent of the problem. The village estimates it has lost over $142,000 in revenue over the past several years from unpaid water bills.

One user is estimated to owe the village $29,000 and four others have a bill in excess of $11,000, officials said. There are approximately 21 properties that owe money for their water service.

“It’s gotten out of hand,” said Trustee Ken Bartholomew.

All of the users who owe overdue fees live outside the village. In the village, if you don’t pay your water bill, it’s reassessed into property taxes, but that’s not the case outside the village.

There are substantially more water users in the village than outside the village.

The unpaid water bills coupled with the increased cost of running the water filtration plant spurred officials to tentatively increase water rates by 10 percent on the 2012-13 budget.

It costs approximately $200,000 per year, including $70,000 to $75,000 in chemicals alone, to operate the water filtration plant. The cost to operate the plant was $40,000 to $50,000 per year before the state mandated the village build a new plant several years ago. Telisky said the increase in the water rate could be decreased if the village is successful in recovering delinquent funds.

He said former mayor Francis “Fra” Putorti sent out a letter to users in May 2010 that was successful in recovering some funds and officials are optimistic that the latest round of letters will do the same.

If users don’t pay after their water service is discontinued, the village may pursue other options, including legal action.

There was debate among board members regarding the language of the proposal. Trustee Walter Sandford and Telisky were in favor of leaving water service on to users who were making a concerted effort to pay their bills but would be unable to pay off the entire balance by the Sept. 30 deadline. But that motion failed to garner sufficient support and the board voted 3-2 in favor of the more the stringent language. Telisky and Sandford were the voices of dissent.

 

Budget update

In other matters, the village held a public hearing on the 2012-13 budget, but no one voiced any concern and the village is expected to formally adopt the spending plan, which calls for a 1.5 percent increase in the tax levy.

The tax rate will increase from $17.67 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $17.87 per $1,000 of assessed property value, an increase of $20 on a property assessed for $100,000.

Overall the budget calls for $1,842,033 in appropriations, up from $1,806,794

(an increase of $35,238.59) last year; $173,878 in non-tax revenues (an increase of $929), and $80,000 from the appropriated fund balance, an increase of $15,000 from last year.

Sandford and Bartholomew, who were both reelected to their third terms in office last month, were sworn into office during an organizational meeting on Monday. Bryan Brooks, chief of the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company was also read the oath of office.

Because there were no changes in the makeup of the board, all of last year’s appointments were reaffirmed for the next year. A full list of appointments is available at the village offices.

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