$1 Million Water Bill Glitch Undetected: 2010
December 3, 2010, 12:25 AM
Filed under: Budget, City Staff, Water-Sewer-Sanitation

December 3, 2010

The Sun-Sentinel reported on its Dec. 2, 2010 website that the City of Hollywood let 12 Hollywood condos rack up some $1 million in unpaid water bills. In fact the condos received no water bills and the city did not discover its error for almost a year. The Sun-Sentinel reported that most of these condos are now on payment plans so it appears the lost revenue will be made up. But there are issues here that need to be examined.

The city is quoted as attributing its billing failure to a “computer glitch.” What’s serious here is not the computer glitch but the city’s failure to detect it promptly. City staff apparently did not miss the unpaid revenue for close to a year. This lack of control over city billing and the consequent revenue drain raise questions that were not considered in the Sun-Sentinel article.

Are Escalating Water Rates Unnecessary?

1. Previously, the city commission adopted a five-year plan to raise water and sewer rates every year for five years. We are in the middle of that rate-increase plan now. But why are ever higher rates needed when the city does not miss a million dollar water revenue shortfall for almost a year?

Proper Controls Lacking

2. Why would this long-standing undetected glitch be limited to 12 condos on the beach? How can we be assured that the city is properly billing all other water users?

3. What controls are being put in place to eliminate such glitches and even more important to detect promptly any that do arise?

Finally, it is perhaps instructive to compare the speed with which Broward County Revenue Department handled its potentially revenue-draining computer glitch last month. The county discovered That error in 19 days, as explained on the Property Appraiser’s website.

The Revenue Collector learned on November 19 that approximately 12,000 property owners…

We hope our elected officials take a serious look at our city’s lack of billing controls. We hope, too, they will soon be able to assure us that the city has taken specific corrective steps and water billing is now under control. Until then, we are left with a shaky feeling that all is not well in Hollywood billing land.

Sara Case
December 3, 2010

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