Flint to stop sending water bills until credits applied

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Flint’s mayor has suspended the mailing of utility bills to residents to give the city time to apply credits to water bills.

Mayor Karen Weaver said on Wednesday that city employees “are doing everything they can” to get accounts in order, including making adjustments and obtaining the proper computer programs to calculate and apply adjustments and credits to the city’s more than 85,000 active and inactive utility accounts on record from April 2014 to present.

“The credits are coming,” Weaver said. “Flint residents need and deserve this relief. I’ve said from Day One, Flint residents should not have to pay for water they can not and are not using.”

The next bill most customers receive should include the credits from the state, Weaver said.

The estimated average amount that will be applied to customer accounts is around $600. The bills are expected to be sent out in April.

Gov. Rick Snyder recently approved a $30 million plan to assist city residents with water bills amid the city’s lead-contamination water crisis.

The $30 million will be used to credit residents for 65 percent of the water portion of their bills from April 2014 through April 2016. Businesses will receive a credit for 20 percent of their bills.

The city switched its water source to the Flint River in April 2014, which caused high levels of lead to be released into the drinking water. The city switched back to Detroit’s water system in October 2015.

The plan does not address charges for sewer service or other water uses that are not considered part of the lead contamination public health threat.

“In addition, this credit will provide some financial relief to residents who have been dealing firsthand with this issue,” Snyder said last month.

Weaver said to have the credits applied to the entire amount owed by Flint utility customers, a few things must be done.

Adjustments are needed to some accounts that were past due in August 2015. The fees were “set aside” after a judge issued a ruling on water rates that month.

In January, the same judge amended his August ruling, finding the water rates were set properly, Weaver said.

The amount that was “set aside” on those past due accounts will now appear on the customers’ bills.

Another adjustment needed to some accounts is for balances from delinquent bills that were placed on property tax rolls, city officials said.

The water portion of the property tax bill has been returned to customer accounts so the water credit can be calculated and applied.

Flint officials have said unpaid water bills have put a major strain on city finances, and they’ve suggested the need for closer to $90 million in relief.