COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
UPDATE 6:30 P.M.: Assistant Director of Utilities Sarah Talbert said there were no utility disconnections on Monday.
She said the utility department was asked by the city manager to not move forward with any disconnections due to city council wanting to discuss the disconnects at Monday's city council meeting.
Talbert said as of Monday there are 2,538 customers pending disconnection.
ORIGINAL: The city of Columbia began utility disconnections Monday for customers behind on their payments.
The city paused its policy of disconnecting customers with unpaid bills in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Assistant Utilities Director Sarah Talbert said the city provided payment arrangements for 812 customers in September. She said the department is setting up payment arrangements for customers who may not be able to pay their entire bill right away. Talbert said customers are asked to contact the Utility Customer Service office at 573-874-7380.
Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas is proposing a property tax increase that would help residents experiencing severe financial hardship, including those with unpaid utility balances.
The city's property tax rate is 41 cents per $100 of assessed value. Thomas' proposal would raise the average property tax bill in the city by about $10 per month, if approved by voters.
Columbia resident Melanie Bryan said she is not in favor of a property tax increase.
“I just think the taxes are really expensive anyways,” Bryan said. “Boone County is one of the higher counties to live in when it comes to tax. It’s kind of ridiculous.”
Bryan said some people are already having a hard time trying to pay their taxes and she doesn’t think raising them will help. People who are unable to pay utility bills likely won't be able to afford the extra property tax either, she said.
Bryan said the pandemic has affected everyone and she understands this is a hard time. She was furloughed from her job for two months.
“It’s not easy,” Bryan said. “I know that the stimulus check for some people wasn’t enough but I do feel that the unemployment stimulus was definitely more than enough.”
Bryan said the city should be willing to work with people who need help instead of looking to raise taxes.
Another Columbia resident Amy Lewis said she is in favor of the proposed property tax increase.
"There’s no reason why we can’t pay a little bit more to help people out," Lewis said. "We just need to help one another, it’s really that simple."
Thomas said in a newsletter he will bring up an alternative that would prevent disconnections during the city council meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at Columbia City Hall.