Flint Advisory Board Upholds Tax Liens Against City Residents For Unpaid Water Bills

By Yessenia Funes Jun 28, 2017

Residents in Flint, Michigan are still in danger of losing their homes for not paying past due water bills.

Yesterday (June 27), the city’s Receivership Transition Advisory Board, a financial board Gov. Rick Snyder appointed, disapproved of a resolution that would have put a moratorium on the tax liens which put homes at risk of foreclosure for residents who had not paid their water bills.  

Many residents stopped paying during the crisis in which it was discovered that Flint’s water contained dangerous levels of lead. The state did subsidize the city’s water costs but stopped in February after it discovered the water was officially meeting federal water quality standards.

So the city began to charge again—and issue shut-off notices to residents who owed. When that didn’t lead to a substantial number of payments, the city sent more than 8,000 Flint residents these tax lien notices.

The Flint city council approved a one-year moratorium on the water liens in May, reports M-Live/The Flint Journal. However, the council needs approval by the advisory board for it to go into affect. The board declined to give its approval, citing money as the reason. “It’s important to view the water lien moratorium not in isolation but in the context of other issues, including budget,” said board Chair Frederick Headen, to M-Live/The Flint Journal.

Ultimately, economics is why the city has been pushing to get residents to pay for their water. Without state support, Flint had to rethink how to handle future water payments. With the council’s proposed moratorium, Flint Chief Financial Officer David Sabuda estimated that the city could lose $2.3 million.

Mayor Karen Weaver said, in an online statement, that she didn’t agree with the board’s decision, so she ordered Sabuda not to send the liens to the county. This should delay any foreclosures and, essentially, keep the moratorium in place, reports The Detroit News.

Meanwhile, the state is allotting $4 million toward the litigation against its environmental agency and current and former regulators regarding the water crisis. The State Administrative Board approved these funds yesterday, reports M-Live/The Flint Journal. Five governmental officials—one who is still in office—face involuntary manslaughter charges as part of the Attorney General Bill Schuette’s investigation into the lead crisis.