Overdue WSSC bills surpass $12 million
Utility says delinquent government accounts rose most
Roughly one in 11 Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission customers were overdue on their bills at the end of April, owing the utility nearly $12.3 million.
Although that's an improvement from the roughly $14 million that was overdue from almost one in 10 accounts in January, unpaid accounts have increased by almost $2 million since April of last year, according to information provided by the WSSC.
So far the past-due accounts are not causing real trouble for the water and sewer utility, which serves 1.8 million customers in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, said WSSC spokesman Jim Neustadt.
To that end, the utility soon will begin making automated reminder calls to account holders residential, commercial and governmental who have not paid their bills by the due date, Neustadt said.
Although overdue charges have grown, the number of delinquent accounts has stabilized at 40,000 to 45,000 and has not risen above 10 percent for 16 months.
Some of the rise in delinquent accounts is because of the 8.5 percent increase in water and sewer rates that took effect in July 2010, Neustadt said.
Another 8.5 percent rate increase goes into effect July 1.
Still, Neustadt is optimistic.
"Just because it's [overdue] doesn't mean we are not going to get it," he said of the bill payments.
Proportionately, the biggest increase in overdue bills was for governmental accounts. The average monthly total overdue from all government accounts in the 2010 budget year was $211,430.96. For the 10 months of the current budget year, the average monthly total overdue from all government accounts was more than twice that, at $575,304.58. And the average number of overdue government accounts per month rose from 44 to 54.
More details about overdue government accounts were not immediately available.
For the same periods, the average monthly total from all residential overdue accounts rose from $9.15 million to $9.8 million, but the average number of overdue residential accounts per month dropped from 40,442 to 39,996.
At the same time, the average monthly total overdue from all commercial accounts rose from $1.38 million to $2.02 million, while the average number of overdue commercial accounts per month rose from 1,758 to 1,803.
Two years ago, in the wake of the recession, WSSC budget group leader Sheila Cohen called the increase in delinquent accounts "drastic." At the time, the overdue total was $11.18 million.
Since then, WSSC has asked for a change in state law to let the utility place a lien on properties for which water and sewer bills have not been paid. The proposal has failed.
Neustadt said no decisions have been made about whether to request legislation next year.