On the heels of an announcement by the Pasadena Water and Power Department (PWP) about resuming shut-offs for nonpayment by its customers, the City Council on Monday voted to resume the collection of parking and transit-related fees and fines, as well as late fees and payments for other city services, including refuse collection, sewer maintenance, and the Utility Underground Surtax and utility user’s tax.
The Department of Finance proposal rescinds the suspension of late fees or penalties for all services or fees not previously approved by the City Council on April 12, 2021. These will include fees for business licenses, health permits, emergency medical services, permits, rents, and miscellaneous receivables.
The fees were suspended by two separate actions by the City Council on March 17, 2020 and April 6, 2020, to provide financial relief to members of the community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. PWP customers were the beneficiaries of these actions, which also included the suspension of utility service shut-offs as a consequence for nonpayment of power and water bills.
The city was hoping to receive some federal or state assistance to directly reimburse water or power utilities, but no proposal to this effect has been included in COVID-19 stimulus funding.
At the same time, while the suspension of late fees and utility shut-offs provided a temporary measure of relief, it does not relieve customers of their obligation to pay utility bills, PWP said last month.
“Since the end of March 2020, the amount of unpaid utility bills has increased from about $1.3 million to over $8.4 million as of March 31, 2021,” PWP said. “These arrears are over five times higher than that was experienced in pre-pandemic times and are still increasing considerably.”
The Finance Department said approval of the recommendation to reinstate late fees and penalties would maintain a balanced operating budget for fiscal year 2022 without the need to draw upon reserves.