The Fallbrook Public Utility District approved an agreement with the County of San Diego to place unpaid water and sewer fixed charges on property tax bills.
FPUD’s board voted 3-1 June 23, with Archie McPhee opposed and Don McDougal absent, to authorize the office of the San Diego County Auditor and Controller to assess a fixed charge special assessment to add unpaid charges for water and other services on the property tax bills of the parcels with the unpaid FPUD bills.
“This is an annual exercise where we take unpaid standby charges that we put on the county tax rolls and the district recovers 95 percent of those obligations from the county,” said FPUD general manager Brian Brady.
The list of delinquent properties must be transmitted annually. “We don’t have an automatic mechanism. The board has to take an affirmative action every year,” Brady said.
In many cases the transfer to the property tax bill is by mutual agreement rather than by use of the county as a collection agency. “We try to work closely with the property owners who have outstanding balances and frequently the property owner will request that the obligation be put on the tax rolls,” Brady said. “It’s not a last resort.”
Sewer charges for properties served by the San Diego County Sanitation District, which was created in 2011 by the merger of the nine sanitation districts served by the county’s Department of Public Works, are placed on property tax bills, as were sewer charges for the individual districts prior to the merger. The arrangement between FPUD and the county is thus equivalent to the situation of tax bills for properties within a local water district but within the San Diego County Sanitation District rather than within a water district which provides sewer services.
An unpaid property tax bill results in a lien against the property, but payments must be delinquent for five years before the county can take the property and sell it at auction or to an interested public agency. Payment of delinquent property taxes to release a lien is required for a change in parcel ownership to another private party. “Frequently the obligation’s paid when the property’s transferred in escrow to another owner,” Brady said.
Property owners with unpaid charges for water and other services were notified by mail at the beginning of May that the unpaid charges might be added to and become a part of the annual taxes levied on the property.
FPUD will submit an electronic list of parcels with delinquent and other unpaid charges to the Auditor and Controller office by Aug. 11.