by Terry Rogers
UPDATED: According to City Manager Mark Whitfield, for any balances due after to July, the Governor’s State of Emergency gives utility customers at least four months to catch up on payments which means they cannot be disconnected until November. However, those who did not pay their July bill can be disconnected for non-payment in September. The City website will be updated to reflect this information. Currently, anyone who still owes utility bills from July or earlier could begin seeing disconnections starting September 10. The City urges anyone who is struggling to pay their utility bills to reach out to the Customer Service Department as soon as possible.
The City of Milford is facing a higher than normal delinquency rate for utility and tax bills. According to City Manager Mark Whitfield, there are 1,104 delinquent utility accounts with a balance of $243,478.
“During normal procedures, the City can shut off for nonpayment,” Whitfield said. “The State of Emergency for COVID-19 did not allow electric disconnections. Letters are mailed to delinquent customers to encourage repayment. We are also reaching out to customers by telephone to actively collect these balances.”
In addition to late utility payments, delinquent property taxes are also up slightly from last year, although it is still lower than the high of over $500,000 a few years ago. In 2017, the City sent letters to approximately 35 delinquent tax accounts for possible monitions.
“Most of these owners fulfilled a payment arrangement,” Whitfield said. “At this time, the balance of outstanding taxes and penalties is approximately $295,000, of which $136,600 is due from tax years 2018 and prior. Tax bills for 2020 will be sent out this week and due September 30. The City plans to resume collections through monitions this fall.”
Whitfield explained that the City is working with individuals to set up payment arrangements. Penalties will not be applied until November and disconnection for delinquency will not resume until November 12 to give residents time to catch their bills up with the City.
“We appreciate when customers contact us to let us know when they will be able to make payments on their utility accounts,” Whitfield said. “Catholic Charities is providing emergency crisis benefits through their LIHEAP program. In addition, Catholic Charities also has a Basic Needs fund that is available for utility support. We received nearly $50,000 from Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation (DEMEC) as a member to assist low income folks with electric bills. We plan to use Catholic Charities to distribute these funds for Milford electric bills.”
Whitfield suggested that anyone who is having difficulty with their utility or property tax bills should call Customer Service at 302-422-6616 to discuss repayment options. Those who have significant financial hardships can reach out to Catholic Charities by visiting https://www.ccwilm.org/basic-needs/. In Kent County, they can reach the organization by calling 302-674-1600 or in Sussex County call 302-856-9578.