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Council to vote on adding unpaid utility bills to property taxes

Yellow Springs Village Council will vote tonight on legislation that would add delinquent utility bills to a homeowner’s property taxes.

The legislation is one of several measures the council is considering to collect unpaid utility bills.

Delinquent utility bills, which include electric, water, sewer and solid waste, result in an annual revenue loss of about $22,000, according to village documents. Over an eight-year period starting in 2006, overdue utility bills for 593 delinquent accounts totaled $190,088.33, according to village data.

“Anytime someone’s delinquent in their bills, there’s always the possibility that could be passed on to other people through an increase,” Yellow Springs Village Manager Patti Bates said to council members during the Aug. 4 meeting. “We don’t want to do that if we don’t have to.”

In addition to adding the delinquent bills to a homeowner’s tax bill, the finance director, Melissa Vanzant, suggested the village require all utilities customers to pay a deposit. Currently, village homeowners are exempted from paying a utility deposit.

Vanzant also suggested the village keep utility deposits until a customer pays the final bill instead of the current practice of returning the deposit to the customer after two years.

“It’s better than sending a bill collector after them,” said Yellow Springs Village Council President Karen Wintrow. “… This has been a concern for years …We have to start a plan and this is, to me, is the first step.”

Homeowners account for a small percentage of village residents with overdue utility bills, according to village data. Renters who move out of the area account for 75 percent of the delinquent accounts.

In a report, Vanzant, attributed the delinquent accounts to deaths, foreclosures, bankruptcies, abandoned homes, contractors using temporary utilities who leave town and renters who move out of town leaving balances on their accounts.

“If we continue to have delinquencies, in order to cover it, my bill might have to rise and I would have a problem with that,” said Yellow Springs Village Councilman Gerald Simms.

If council passes the legislation, the four or five homeowners with overdue utility bills will get a certified letter giving them a final opportunity to pay before adding the amount to their tax bills. If they don’t pay before delinquent amount is added to their property taxes, the money will be collected by the county auditor in two installments, according to Bates.

These homeowners would also be charged a 10 percent assessment fee. Half of the revenue from the fee would go to the county auditor. The village would receive the other half, according to Bates.

If the council votes against the measure, the village would not be able to collect the delinquent funds. The village can assess overdue utility payments for the previous eight years to a homeowner’s property taxes.

“This isn’t about being heartless,” Wintrow said. ” This is about trying to help the entire community.”

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