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State board rules to make Flint residents pay water bills - or risk losing homes

Jun 27, 2017

Thousands of delinquent Flint water customers are once again at risk of losing their homes.

Today, a state oversight board struck down a moratorium on putting unpaid water bills on county tax rolls.

The Receivership Transition Advisory Board (RTAB) decided it is in the city of Flint’s best interest to get people to pay for outstanding water bills, either willingly or with the threat of foreclosure if they don’t pay.    

The city’s finance department will put the outstanding balances on the July 17th tax bill.  People will have until February of 2018 to pay the bill.  If the tax bill is unpaid for two years, Genesee County would put a lien on the home.  Ultimately, the bill would either be paid following the sale of the property or through foreclosure. 

David Sabuda is Flint’s finance director.   He says lifting the moratorium may bring in several million dollars the city needs.

“This gives the city the opportunity to pay its bills,” says Sabuda.

But Flint’s elected leaders created the moratorium because city residents have told them they can’t afford to pay for water they don’t believe is safe to drink.

City council president Kerry Nelson is not giving up the fight.

“We’re going to put a new ordinance in place to give this community some kind of relief.  There has to be,” says Nelson.

Nelson notes that the current ordinance allowing the city to put outstanding water bills on the county tax rolls is a half-century-old.

“We didn’t have poisoned water 53 years ago,” Nelson says.

Also today, RTAB board members approved an extension to the city of Flint’s current contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA).   The three-month extension is intended to give the city more time to review a proposed 30-year contract with GLWA to provide Flint’s tap water.

It’s not clear if the contract extension will be enough to satisfy state officials, who wanted the Flint city council to approve the 30-year agreement at its meeting Monday night.   The state threatened ‘legal action’ if the council did not act.  

Flint city council members have balked at the 30-year deal, amid concerns about water rates and other issues.