Local News

Unpaid Water Bills Hot Topic Of Discussion In Raleigh

Posted May 24, 2006

— Last year, the city of Raleigh lost more than $1 million in unpaid utility bills, mostly water and sewer. Now, leaders are looking for better ways to collect.

In Raleigh, 99 percent of the city's customers pay for the water they used. But every year, 6,000 Raleigh utility customers can't or won't pay their bills on time.

"A million dollars is a lot of money," said former Raleigh City Council member Marc Scruggs.

Scruggs said the city should do more to collect that money. The hardware store owner said the city should improve efficiency, especially when next year's proposed budget includes a tax and utility fee increase.

"Do like I would do in my business and look from within and collect things due to it before (the utility) goes out to the taxpayer and wants to get more money from the trough," he said.

This week, Scruggs asked the city's budget committee to consider charging all customers a $50 to $75 security deposit, in case they don't pay.

Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen said they stopped charging a deposit 12 years ago because it wasn't worth it.

"The cost, both to us to administer it and to our customers who have to pay it, (is) far greater than the benefits we would receive in fewer bad debts," said Allen.

The average delinquent water bill owed to Raleigh is about $245. The city already charges a $5 late fee, and hires an outside collection agency to get the money. Plus, said Allen, the threat of cutting off a resident's water is still the best way to get them to pay.

Raleigh bills its customers every two months, but is switching to a monthly billing system. It will take several more years, but Allen believes smaller bills will help cut down on late payments.

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