Oxford Considers Budget, Taxes, and Collections
Springtime in Nova Scotia means we are moving closer to budget time in the Town of Oxford. Town Council met last night to work through a full agenda where water and money took centre-stage.
Senior Accountant RuthAnn Brookins asked council to approve the write-off of “uncollectable” past-due accounts from water customers. These are inactive accounts, where the homeowner has run up a debt, and either sold their property or—in one case—passed away, making collection difficult, if not impossible.
Brookins said the town has been attempting to collect on some of these accounts for up to six years, and having them on the books, accruing overdue interest, distorts the true accounting of the town’s finances.
Unlike unpaid property taxes, water bills are not carried over to new property owners, and beyond cutting off service and sending a bill, there’s not much that can be done to collect.
In the case of these inactive accounts, there is no water to cut off as an incentive to pay. Council approved the write-offs, in the amount of $8348.23.
The new CAO, Linda Cloney, then asked council to decide whether the town should follow the policy and go ahead with cutting off water to customers who are in arrears, or to continue the past practice of being patient. The downside to that approach has been a situation in which some customers have continued to accrue a mounting debt in water bills, reaching a point that may be impossible for them to ever pay off.
Senior Accountant RuthAnn Brookins says water customers have had multiple notices and were given notices of impending cut-offs. Some have come forward to arrange a realistic payment scheme, but others simply haven’t bothered.
Brookins noted that even in the case of smaller amounts, the ongoing administrative costs of staff time preparing invoices, sending out bills, and chasing down delinquent accounts ends up costing the town—and therefore other taxpayers—more money in the end.
Council directed town staff to move forward with cuts to service for overdue accounts.
Add your comments below.