The New York State Legislature has approved a bill sponsored by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Thomas D. Croci that would save the Suffolk County Water Authority, and by extension its ratepayers, hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
State Assembly bill A07571 and Senate bill S04909, based on an SCWA proposal, would allow unpaid customer balances to be placed as liens on property tax bills. SCWA currently is forced to write off on average more than $500,000 per year in unpaid water bills. If signed into law, the bill, which now goes to Governor Cuomo for consideration, would give SCWA the same rights as municipal water districts, which are allowed to place liens on property tax bills.
"This is a tremendous moment for SCWA, its ratepayers, common sense and bipartisanship in the State Legislature," said SCWA Board Secretary Patrick G. Halpin. "I cannot thank Assemblyman Thiele and Senator Croci enough for their efforts in championing this legislation and shepherding it through their respective legislative bodies. The result, if signed by Governor Cuomo, will be a system that provides financial relief to SCWA ratepayers. It will also protect our excellent credit rating by guaranteeing that all bills are paid. Our extremely high credit rating results in the lowest interest rates."
Assemblyman Thiele noted, "Every year, SCWA has to write off hundreds of thousands of dollars in uncollected water rates, fees and charges due to nonpayment of water bills. And ultimately, these costs are passed along to the customers, like you and I, who pay our bills on time. This legislation would help alleviate the burden and provide a mechanism by which SCWA can legally seek money owed."
"This bill is a win-win for the Suffolk County Water Authority and water service ratepayers because the savings that will be garnered from this new process of collecting unpaid water fees will allow SCWA to pass these savings on to all ratepayers," said Senator Croci. "I am pleased to have partnered with the Water Authority and with Assemblyman Thiele to get this common sense legislation approved. It is my hope that the Governor will support this savings to our ratepayers by signing this bill."
The Suffolk County Water Authority is an independent public-benefit corporation operating under the authority of the Public Authorities Law of the State of New York. Serving approximately 1.2 million Suffolk County residents, the Authority operates without taxing power on a not-for-profit basis.