Lodi resident Janet Troughton is worried about paying the extra $8.52 a month on her water meter bill starting this July.
As a single mother who works a part-time retail job, it can be hard to make ends meet, she said at a Lodi City Council meeting in April. She told the council while she appreciates that they have reduced the water meter cost, it still will be difficult.
“On my income, it’s a real hardship coming up with $300. You just can’t get any more money out of us,” she said.
Councilman Larry Hansen and City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said the only other option that Troughton has is to not pay.
By June 30, property owners will need to decide whether to pay the $300 meter cost in one lump sum or spread it out over three years.
Homeowners that do not pay the full amount by the end of June will start seeing a $8.52 charge appear on their bill and that will continue for three years.
The city will place a lien on every property that plans to pay over three years. City staff estimates about 70 percent, or 9,047 homeowners, will choose the payment plan option.
Schwabauer said the city does not plan on foreclosing on the lien if it is not paid. So it is an option for residents to decide to not pay for their meter now, and wait until their property is sold in the future, he said.
If someone decides not to pay, then the lien will remain on the property accruing interest at 1.5 percent, which is about $2 per year. Then, when the house sells, the debt to the city will be paid.
So for example, if someone sold the house 30 years from now, the interest costs would reach $60, so the city would receive $360 from the sale.
Schwabauer is not aware of anyone who has so far asked not to pay. If someone wanted to wait until their house is sold to pay the lien, they would need to contact the city to work out a system with the finance department, Schwabauer said.
Troughton said she has never had a lien on her property, and it makes her uncomfortable, so she will probably go ahead with the monthly payments.
“Otherwise, it is going to hang over my head,” she said.
Anyone with questions about any part of the water meter process can contact Public Works at 333-6706. Below are some other frequently asked questions.
What type of lien is it, and will it affect my credit score?
It is a special kind of lien created by the government code for utility bills. The property lien will be recorded with the San Joaquin County Recorder’s office. The recorder does not report liens to credit reporting agencies, but there is a chance a third party agency could report it.
When will construction begin?
This year, the city will install about 3,900 meters, kicking off a seven-year, $35 million construction project.
To see when your meter will be installed, go to www.lodi.gov and click on “visit the city’s water meter page,” then click on the map link on the side of the page.
How did we get to this point?
Originally, the council approved charging every property owner the cost to install the meter and the infrastructure from the street to the house.
The city estimated that the costs would run between $300 and $1,100.
But in October, the council decided homeowners will only be responsible for $300, which is the cost of the meter, and city funds will pay for the infrastructure from the street to the house.
Why do I have to pay for my meter now even though it will not be installed until 2017?
When the council voted to decrease the homeowner costs of the meter program to $300, it was contingent on all of the meters being paid for within three years.
Having residents pay all at once will give the water utility adequate cash flow for the project, Sandelin said. Otherwise, the council would have to consider a rate increase, he said.