Santa Paula: Pay Your Bills or Else

By Sheryl Hamlin

Item 12 on the February 6, 2019 Santa Paula City Council Agenda was presented by recently hired Anthony H. Rainey, Interim Finance Director. The subject matter concerned the creation of a formal bill collection policy. From the staff report:

Staff requests the establishment of a formal collection policy that allows for a third party collection service. The policy would allow for an effort to recover other delinquent revenues/receivables that are not limited to: business license taxes and fees: transient occupancy tax, water and sewer utility billings, storm water fees, regulatory, regulatory and development impact fees, fees for services, recovery for damage to City property, fines and penalties, and legal judgements. The majority of the collections would be sewer and water utility charges.

Anthony Rainey, Interim Finance Director

As the city’s mixture of renters to owners has changed to favor renters, the city can no longer use the lien process to collect past due accounts. With $35,000 at stake, it makes sense, according to the new Interim Finance Director, to use a collection agency. The fee will be 28% of the bill.

Referring to the collection process, Council Member Sobel asked if there is “heart and compassion built into it “. Mr. Rainey indicated that there would be a Customer Service component with feedback, but he said that it is important to be fair to those ratepayers who are paying their bills as well.

City Manager Rock said that they would add the customer feedback into the new collections policy so that the city can gauge the quality of the collections.

The item passed unanimously.

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