ROSAMOND — Property owners will be the only people allowed to open accounts for water and sewer service with the Rosamond Community Services District under a policy finalized Wednesday by the Board of Directors.
Also, the base rate for the services — the flat fee charged monthly — will be collected on the Kern County property tax rolls instead of the monthly District bills. The monthly bills from the District would be only for the fluctuating amount of the water use.
The fees would not change in the shift and would still be set as part of the regular rate study process.
The twin policies, unanimously approved by the Board, are intended to stabilize the District’s revenues by cutting down on nonpayments.
Especially in light of new state laws that make it more difficult to collect on delinquent accounts, the District has been looking at means to better secure its revenue stream from water and sewer accounts.
“The state forced our hand,” Board President Greg Wood said of the policies meant to counteract the effect of no longer being able to shut off service for nonpayment.
The policies are “to help ensure that we are having responsible parties that’s not going to leave in the middle of the night,” he said.
Property owners are generally easier to track down for nonpayment than tenants who may move without any notice or forwarding address.
Tenants will no longer be able to obtain service. Proof of ownership will be required when applying for service.
“We have to have a way for this agency to get paid for services rendered,” Wood said.
The ordinance also eliminates the practice of a credit check for new accounts. Instead, a deposit will be required, which will be returned when the account is closed, minus any outstanding fees. This is intended to prevent the District from having to write off so many accounts as being uncollectable, officials said.
The new account rules would apply initially to new accounts but would also require accounts in tenants’ names to be converted to the property owners.
Moving collection to the tax rolls is “one of those actions that aren’t designed to gather additional revenue, but to maintain the revenues that we already have,” General Manager Steve Perez said.
The move is not a new fee or a tax; it is strictly a means of collecting the existing fees, he said.
The District has data showing that collecting base rate fees on the property tax rolls show a collection rate of 99% for water delinquencies and 96% for sewer delinquencies, he said.
“This is going to help keep us afloat in the future,” Wood said.
Perez also said this action would immediately help those hurt by the COVID-19 closures in that it would move that portion of their water and service bills to the twice-yearly property tax collection instead of the monthly bills, giving them a few months’ reprieve in which they may be able to stabilize their own finances.
“It would give them time to get back to work,” he said.