Letters went out last week to residents who were confused about suddenly having to pay an additional $50 per household.
After receiving numerous complaints from home owners the city decided to suspend the program which was initiated to make up a $200,000 deficit.
City Manager Michael Capabianco explained the billing mistake in an online post on the city’s website.
“Last fiscal year, the previous tax collector did not upload the month of June in that quarter’s sewer billing,” Capabianco said. “That mistake was found by the new tax collector and was explicitly mentioned to the city auditor to sample that quarter during the annual audit to ensure the new tax collector was correct in his finding that June’s month had been omitted, in order to compare against the 2015 amount. According to the auditor’s findings, it was omitted and cost the city approximately $200,000.”
Capabianco said deciding how to make up the deficit was not an easy process.
“The 2015 fiscal year is closed out in our financial software, so we can’t simply reissue a bill and apply it to prior year’s budget,” Capabianco said.
He also said the water usage data that is used to created the sewer bill has been corrupted.
Due to the complications and fiscal regulatory requirements city officials attempted to simplify the billing process and take the uncollected $200,000 and divide it by the 4,000 sewer account properties. That calculated to a $50 charge per sewer account.
The statement says the mayor and council realized that the $50 fix is not fair to all and are seeking a more equitable way to cover the $200,000.
“Myself, the city council and administration have heard the concerns of the rate payers and will adjust how the bill is going to be calculated,” Mayor John Moor said.
The city has obtained new data from the water company and is soliciting proposals from auditing firms to do the calculation based upon usage. Capabianco stated that no one on staff has the ability to calculate the billing on such a large scale project containing various data.
“The data set has numerous parameters, such as usage credits, closed account dates, and new account information that we just don’t have the expertise to handle,” Capabianco said.
If residents have already paid the $50, the amount will be credited to their account.
Residents will also be receiving fourth quarter tax bills, which have not been completed as the city is waiting for the tax rate to be finalized by the state.