This week, Over 8,000 Flint residents were sent notices telling them to pay up, or get out.
This threat came in the form of potential tax liens being placed on their homes if they didn’t pay their unpaid water bills.
Residents never stopped receiving water bills throughout the crisis- and they pay some of the highest water rates in the country—for poisoned water. Some received water credits if they paid their bill throughout the three-year crisis, which they could use as a voucher for future water bills, but that program has now ended (courtesy of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder).
Even through the water is still poisoned.
There’s been a scheme by state officials to move unpaid water bills to homeowners’ property taxes, creating a delinquent tax that, if left unpaid, will lead to home foreclosure.
The tax lien has recently caught traction, and the spotlight has caused some officials to speak out against the action.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver released a statement Thursday:
“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.”
Congressman Dan Kildee, who represents Flint as a part of Michigan’s 5th district, had a stronger condemnation of the tax yesterday:
“Flint families should not have to pay for water that they still cannot drink, and they certainly should not lose their homes over this ongoing water crisis that was caused by the callous decisions of state government. It is unfortunate that Governor Snyder ended water credits for Flint families. I opposed this decision because Flint families deserve support from the state until there is confidence in the water system again.”
The decision to add the bills onto the property tax came from the Governor Snyder-appointed Receivership Transition Advisory Board, or the RTAB.
They’re an unelected board of officials that holds meetings in Lansing, the state capitol, to make decisions over the heads of Flint elected officials, including the Mayor’s office and City Council.
Sounds like Democracy, right?
On April 12th, the board met to discuss, among other things, the unpaid water bills of Flint residents.
David Sabuda, the Flint city Chief Financial Officer (who makes a yearly salary over $133,000- a $40,000 increase from the previous Flint CFO) discussed the tactics they had been using to scare Flint residents and commercial renters to pay up on their water bills.
“As I reported last month on the water collection piece, we are holding our own on water collections. On the last few months we have started to turn off water on the residential dise and we’ve seen our residential collections pick up dramatically. I would say for the last month of collection I looked at, which would be March, will be about 68 percent collected; on the commercial side over 100 percent collected for March, which is really, really good.”
Michael Finney, a RATB board member, was impressed with the bullying tactic employed by Sabuda.
“And then the last question, with respect to the water fund and the collection activity that’s going on, it certainly sounds like a lot of improvement has been made. That’s great. Have there been any shut-offs at all?”
Mr. Sabuda: “Yes.”
“We try to reach out and try to get to the point where they (residents) know we’re coming… We post the residence. We give them time to come in and try to square up their accounts. And we have gone through the shut-off notice. We have gone through the shut-offs. That happened in March. As the weather got warmer we started to shut off.”
Now they discuss their plans on imposing tax liens.
Mr. Sabuda: “What we’ll do is if we don’t get paid, whether it’s a commercial customer or it’s a residential customer, we will place water, that balance that is eligible underneath the law, we will put that on the tax bill We usually do that in May based upon whatever the ordinance requires us to do. And I can tell you, I’ll forewarn you, the County Treasurer has given us a hard time about this. We basically sad that we’re going to deliver a delinquent water to the tax roll July of ‘17, and we’re expecting that if it isn’t paid by the customer or by the property owner in ‘17 tax year that we’re going to see that paid to us in the delinquent roll in March ‘18, and we’re expecting the County Treasurer to collect on that delinquent roll.”
“Our goal is to get to a 80 percent collection rate on a monthly basis. We are getting there… And that’s because of the threat of the shut-off, and we need to continue to do that.”
No discussion of the residents sick from the water.
No admittance that the water is still poison, and they’re committing a robbery of Americans who are still suffering.
Hasn’t Flint been through enough?