Flint, Mich — Mayor Weaver issued the following statement today in response to the developments regarding the City of Flint Treasury Department sending lien notices to residents for unpaid water/sewer bills:
“I must say, I agree with those who have spoken out against this process. I have met with our Interim City Attorney and Finance Director and they say the city is obligated by local ordinance to follow this procedure, and we must follow the law. As the Mayor of Flint and as a Flint resident, I understand the concerns that have been raised and I am working to see if any changes or something can be done to help those affected by this, especially given the extraordinary circumstances we have endured due to the water crisis.”
Flint’s Interim Chief Financial Officer says it is important to note that the process involving the lien transfer to tax bills is routine and has been performed for years in accordance with the City ordinance adopted in 1964. This process is typically done annually. However, it was not done in Flint last July (2016) due to the water relief credits provided by the state being applied to customers’ accounts at that time.
In April 2015, the City mailed out 5,503 letters for water/sewer charges over six months in arrears that totaled $3,396,712. The current mailing of 8,002 letters was for two years of billings totaling $5,806,448.62 of delinquent water and sewer charges. (Sewer services in Flint were not affected by the water crisis).
Note, the City of Flint has not put a lien on properties. In Michigan, when water is provided to a property a lien is automatically created. It is similar to what happens when you buy a car with a loan, for example. Once you sign the note, a lien is created. In Flint, once payments are missed on water/sewer accounts for longer than six months, City Ordinance requires the treasurer to transfer the lien to the property tax bill.
The letters mailed by the Treasury Dept. to current property owners provide them with notice of the balance owed on the water/sewer account for the address, and of the May 19 date when the transfer process is scheduled to begin. If payment is made on the balance, it will eliminate need for the transfer. If no payment is received, the lien would transfer to the tax bill and be combined with the property tax balance. Officials say property owners would still have until February 28, 2018, to pay the tax balance including the outstanding water and sewer charges. After February 2018, the liens are transferred to the county treasurer for collection.
The City continues to work with non-profit partners that offer assistance to help residents pay their water/sewer bills. Agencies that regularly assist customers include MI DHHS, the Salvation Army, and GCCARD. See the online flyer for more information: http://www.cityofflint.com/waterbillhelp.