MONROE — The city’s procedures for collecting unpaid water bills and disconnecting delinquent accounts have been criticized in an audit.
The audit, done for the city by the firm Luffey, Huffman, Ragsdale and Soignier, said water billing and disconnection procedures are applied inconsistently.
The report said customers are treated differently based on bill size and whether they are residential or commercial.
“We were told that the policy in effect during the audit year was such that no disconnect notice would be generated if a customer’s balance was below a specified dollar amount ($100),” the report states.
“We were also told that work orders for disconnection generated may not be completed if the customer was classified as commercial and their physical address differed from their billing address or if the business was water-dependent.”
Auditors found that about three-fourths of sampled customers reviewed had current balances on their accounts, though all of them had delinquent balances of 90 days or more totaling $15,914.
“This indicates customers are allowed to continue consuming water and receiving other city services even though they have long-term outstanding balances,” the report stated.
Auditors said some customers were simply keeping their balance below $100 to avoid disconnection.
Obtaining city services without paying is a violation of the state constitution, as it’s considered a loan, pledge or donation.
However, city Administration Director David Barnes said a uniform policy is in place.
“The problem that has occurred is that there are so many delinquent accounts, it is physically impossible to disconnect all the delinquent accounts in some cycles,” Barnes said.
Barnes said the city is owed about $2 million for water, trash and sewer services.