FLINT, Mich. — Flint officials are implementing several collection and restoration programs to keep its water fund solvent as the city attempts to rebound from a lead-tainted water crisis.
Extending a trial water fee collection period and issuing water liens are part of Flint Chief Financial Officer Hughey Newsome's plan to keep the water fund out of the red, the Flint Journal reported .
The fund is projected to have a $4 million surplus at the end of the 2018 fiscal year. But it'll be unbalanced within the next five years if the city fails to improve collection efforts, Newsome said.
"We have to demonstrate that we are managing the water fund properly, which means bringing in the cash to support the water fund," he said. "At the same time, we also have to be aware there are a number of households that have an income challenge, we have to balance that out."
A trial policy implemented in March lessens the pay threshold required for households behind on their bills to have water service restored. Residents now have to pay their current water bill, a $75 fee and just 10 percent of their outstanding balance, compared to the former policy's 50 percent of an outstanding balance.
Administrative officials are also increasing water shutoffs for residents with outstanding balances for more than seven months. The city now shuts off nearly 300 water service lines a week, compared to 30 water lines per week.
"It's hard to say whether or not the trial policy itself is being effective. I sleep at night knowing that I can say from what I've seen so far it's not ineffective," Newsome said. "Based solely on the data we've collected so far, I'm not pleased with the recovery rate. It's been a slight uptick in the recovery rate and collection, but it's tough to isolate why the uptick has occurred."
Water liens also will be placed on residents' tax roll this summer. Genesee County won't foreclose on homes due to water liens during the emergency, said Debra Cherry, the county's treasurer.
"The county isn't willing to take someone's home away because of a water bill, especially given Flint's circumstances with the water," she said.