Letter to the editor: Farmington's new billing practices too strict
To the editor,
In an effort to be more efficient, Farmington's mayor and city council members recently adopted a new ordinance that eliminates the billing of tenants for city utility services. Instead, the responsibility will now be placed on the owners. As tenants move out, the city will offer an optional "drive-by" reading of the meter to provide an "official" reading at fee of $30. Calculating of the actual pro-rated bill will need to be done by the owner for the five city-billed services and taxes and other charges.
Have you ever seen what goes into these calculations? If the city thinks it's too much work to calculate these fees when they work with them daily, imagine 467 owners trying to figure this out by themselves. No other city in the Twin Cities metro provides a final meter reading without an estimated bill, but with this change, Farmington does! No other city in the Twin Cities metro refuses to provide a duplicate copy of the bill to tenants, but with this change, Farmington does!
At the city council meeting, the mayor acknowledged that landlords pay higher city taxes than owners of homestead properties. These extra taxes should take care of any additional time the city spends on billing tenants. In today's economy, many tenants are former owners themselves that have lost their properties. This new $30 fee will be passed on to the tenants -- who are the least able to pay additional fees. When owners sell their property, the city will provide a final reading and invoice for no additional charge. Tell me, is this really fair?
With this new billing policy, in one fell swoop the city not only cut back on their services, but also assessed a new fee for a small portion of what used to be provided for free as part of the existing utility service. A gut check tells you this is wrong. Shame on you, mayor and city council members. According to city, their mission is to "provide quality services." As residents in this community, we deserve better.
The city received 29 calls and three landlords attended the meeting to voice their concerns. After discussion at two city council meetings, the mayor and city council members unanimously chose to adopt this change, knowing it would create a hardship for landlords and additional fees for tenants. They also acknowledged that this change wouldn't save the city any money, just provide better "billing efficiency."
With 467 landlords and another 467 tenants in Farmington, I wish more would have responded when the city sent out a letter regarding their proposed new billing. Maybe the tenants and landlords didn't realize the impact of this change, or maybe, just maybe, they knew something that I learned after attending two meetings about this subject. No matter how well you prepare or how many meetings you attend, sometimes you just can't fight city hall.