Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bellevue hit by unpaid bills

49 percent of sewer bills delinquent since October

Express Staff Writer

The city of Bellevue got a financial report card from its auditor last week, along with a warning about leaving uncollected water and sewer bills on its books.

Auditor Diane Linard told the City Council on Thursday, Feb. 24, that general-fund expenditures exceeded revenues by $22,000 during the last fiscal year, but that things could have been much worse.

The city anticipated a deficit as high as $163,000, but revenues actually exceeded expectations by $41,000 and expenses were $100,000 less than budgeted, leaving the city's general fund with a budget surplus of $141,000.

Unpaid water and sewer bills were a point of concern. Linard said the city's unpaid bills had "gotten out of hand" compared to other Idaho cities.

"It's a fact of life that you are going to have bad debts," Linard said. "Cities typically write off bad debts at least once each year."

Bellevue has not written off its unpaid bills in several years. They amounted to about $50,000 last year until the city made some adjustments.

About $27,000 of the bills were forgiven because they had been charged to lots that had no building on them, or had not had services for some other reason. About $23,000 in past due bills is still on the city's books, but Linard said they are now considered in the budget as "questionable accounts" that would likely not get paid.

Yet the city has plans to get the attention of residents in arrears on their bills.

City Clerk Dee Barton said the city has received payments on only 49 percent of the sewer bills and 60 percent of the water bills sent out from City Hall since October.

The city has been addressing the issue of uncollected bills for more than a year, but is now preparing to cut off services to get people's attention.

"The shutoffs are coming soon," Barton told the City Council.

Mayor Chris Koch said the council will address the issue of unpaid bills at its next meeting on March 10.

In other Bellevue news:

( Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller told the council he is looking at potential sites in Bellevue for a southern terminus and welcome center for public transportation services. He said he will approach the Planning and Zoning Commission with an application when his organization has settled on a preferred site.

( Councilman Gene Ramsey will step down from the Bellevue City Council to serve as Blaine County sheriff.

Tony Evans:

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