SORRENTO — Town officials said they have collected $6,217 in arrears from customers with overdue garbage and sewer bills since warnings were mailed out in mid-January.
Made public last month, the town’s annual financial audit notes the town had $19,400 in delinquent utilities accounts, a repeat finding from prior years.
In response, town officials sent out 219 letters Jan. 15 warning those with past due accounts they had to pay within 30 days or the town would take legal action to collect.
Town Clerk Paige Robert told the Town Council on Tuesday that since the letters were mailed, 45 customers paid off their bills while another 14 made partial payments or set up payment plans.
Mayor Mike Lambert said letters went out to a broader group of customers than what auditors had originally identified in the recent audit. Letters went out to any customer with overdue bills instead of those noted in the audit who had bills overdue 120 days or longer.
“If it was one month behind, we sent the letter,” Robert said.
The expanded list came on the advice of the town’s financial advisor, Lambert said.
According to a town listing of that broader batch of customers, overdue accounts totaled $34,377, nearly double what the auditors identified. It’s not clear from the listing how much of the past due accounts identified by the auditors has been recovered so far.
But overdue bills ranged from $2,175.80 for the joint account of an entire trailer park just outside the town limits to a closed individual account with an overdue bill of $2.30.
Robert said sewer and garbage bills each cost a flat rate of $20 per month for individual residential customers.
Forty-three warning letters were returned with no forwarding address, Robert said. Some letters went out to customers the town lists as deceased while others went to those town officials know have long since moved away.
Council members offered few comments Tuesday.
“I mean we are making some headway with this,” Councilman Marvin Martin said.
Lambert said in a later interview he suspects some of the overdue bills will have to be written off, but not before the town tries to collect.
Whatever the town can collect may provide some needed financial cushion to Sorrento’s utility fund.
In fiscal 2013-14, auditors found the fund had a positive cash flow, but narrowly so, almost $1,900 to the good. But, after depreciation for town equipment was factored in, the fund actually took a paper loss of $78,835.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.