Syracuse water fix

Common Council takes action on long -time problem:

By Josh Shaw

Residents of Syracuse no longer have to worry about picking up their ex-homeowner's water tab.

The Syracuse Common Council unanimously passed an amendment to the water rules and regulations law that will add unpaid water bill charges onto a person's real property tax bill every year. The amendment will help residents avoid paying water charges that do not belong to them, according to Councilor Ryan McMahon.

On numerous occasions, people would move into houses only to find out they inherited thousands of dollars in delinquent water bill charges, McMahon said. The new provision would eliminate this scenario.

"People inherit old water charges all the time and it is troublesome that this is something that hasn't been addressed until now," McMahon said. "This is a step in the right direction."

The amendment will help the city recover some of the $9 million owed to it in delinquent water charges, according to Councilor Kathleen Joy.

"This is a great start to solving this problem and will be a great collection tool for the city," Joy said. "We haven't had any teeth in the past to collect and it hurt us financially."

Under the current law, the city of Syracuse has little authority to punish people who do not pay their water bill on time. These bills can pile up over the years with some individuals owing as much as $5,000.

But effective April 15, every time an individual does not pay their water bill, that charge will be added to his or her property taxes, forcing him or her to pay the water bill annually.

Residents with overdue water charges who use an escrow agent -- a neutral third party who holds documents and funds in a transfer of property -- will have their water bills paid automatically along with their property taxes.

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