Unpaid utilities added to tax bills

Yellow Springs missing out on thousands from past-due accounts.

Delinquent utility bills will now be added to Yellow Springs homeowners’ property taxes.

The village will be collecting nearly $7,300 in unpaid utility bills from four homeowners whose bills date back to 2006.

The village will mail a certified letter to these homeowners giving them a final opportunity to pay before adding the amount to their tax bills. If they don’t pay before the delinquent amount is added to their property taxes, the money will be collected by the Greene County auditor, along with a 10 percent assessment fee.

“This (the resolution) will take effect immediately,” said Yellow Springs council president Karen Wintrow of the measure, which was unanimously approved last week.

The village will receive half of about $730 in assessment fees that will be billed to the homeowners. The county auditor will receive the other half.

Delinquent utility accounts, including water, sewer and solid waste, result in an estimated $22,000 annual revenue loss to village, according to village documents. Over an eight-year period starting in 2006, these delinquent accounts totaled more than $190,000.

Delinquent utility payments could lead to increased utility rates for all village residents, Yellow Springs Village Manager Patti Bates has said previously.

Overall, past-due utility accounts associated with owner-occupied homes account for a small percentage of village residents with delinquent utility accounts, according to village data.

Most of the delinquent accounts, about 75 percent, belong to renters who move out of the area.

In a report, Yellow Springs Finance Director Melissa 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.

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

In addition to adding the delinquent bills to a homeowner’s tax bill, Vanzant has also suggested the village require that all utilities customers pay a deposit.

Currently, village homeowners are exempted from paying a utility deposit. She also suggested the village keep utility deposits until a customer pays the final bill instead of the current practice of returning the deposit after two years.