An Inglewood resident called into the Oct. 25 regular city council meeting asking how American Rescue Plan Acts (ARPA) funds were used to pay off balances for past due water bills. In typical fashion, Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts contradicted himself on how those funds were used.
The Sept. 6 council agenda detailed that the City’s Finance department requested that $3,204,540.91 of ARPA funds be used to provide utility assistance to residential customers with past-due utility balances incurred due to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.
“I’m calling in regards to the utility payments that were given through the COVID-19 relief for the residents for the 5,000 people that the City paid for arrears,” said the caller. “How did the people receive this and how did you do this because the people I talked to didn’t receive it.”
The mayor replied that the funds were used to pay off liens to prevent residents from losing their homes which contradicts what was in the staff report.
“The utilities that were paid were those that the City had a lien against the property because they were so far behind, so if you were 30, 60 days late you wouldn’t have made the list,” said Butts. “What we did was erase the indebtedness to the City and [it] wasn’t meant to prospectively or proactively pay utilities. It was to take people out of a lien status where they could lose their homes.”
But that’s not what the staff report said.
According to the Sept. 6 staff report “the Finance department ran an aging report for all residential households that had past-due balances that were 90 to 120 days old and 5,790 households were identified as having cumulative past due utility balances of $3,204,540.91” and therefore it was recommended ARPA funds be used to provide utility assistance to residential customers for the payment of their past due bills.
So the caller and her friends would have made the list for relief under the ARPA and City’s guidelines.
Some Inglewood households don’t receive water service through the City and are customers of Golden State Water Company. These households are only billed by the City for trash services and if the trash charges aren’t paid, the City requests the city council place a lien on their homes through a tax roll assessment.
The City filed for those lien assessments in July of this year. In fact, lien assessments for unpaid trash fees are placed on resident’s property taxes annually.
Residents with five years of back owed taxes are then subject to their homes being auctioned off by the County to pay off the unpaid taxes and associated assessments and/or liens.
The July 19 staff report didn’t include the total amount the City was sent to the county to be assessed on their property tax and routinely ignores public records requests to obtain the information.
The ARPA funds were only to be used for debts incurred during the pandemic, not those accumulated before. Hence the mayor’s comments that those who got relief were “so far” behind.
Did the City pay off those liens in exchange for votes for next month’s election?
The aging report would be the Inglewood’s internal accounting of money owed to the city for water.This would not reflect money owed to Golden State Water which largely serves District 4 residents. Since the staff report does not mention Golden State Water which is a separate independent company which collects for water in its own offices, it seems there was no effort to offer equal benefit to any of Inglewood’s Golden State Water customers!! Is this another one of the examples of Sofi adjacent residents not being treated fairly by those elected to represent ALL of us.
It would have been nice to explain e the other roughly 90% of the $31 million was spent! The staff report does indicate the city received $31,755,095.00 for Covid issues as part of the tax dollars that the Federal Goverment received from tax payers .Most of us have not seen how that $31 million benefitted us, !!!!
Pretty amazing isn’t it ? We have the “save us all Stadium “which we were told would bring big bucks to the city, yet no line item in the budget for that and no mention as to where the remaining $ 27,872,55 and change Covid Money was spent!,
So much for transparency – that flew out the window before our free speech rights…..
Or. Maybe that “extra” was put in the lawsuit reserve account so that when Butts arrests someone for disparaging the city council there will be money to pay those attorneys and the lawsuit settlement…..oops that isn’t enough!!!! Most juries KNOW FREE SPEECH IS SOMETHING THAT SHOULD NEVER BE INFRINGED UPON!
Staff report does say where the money came from and how much in total was received under ARPA. The point is people with city water don’t get liens because the city can shut off for nonpayment. They can’t shut off trash service for Golden State therefore they add liens on their property taxes. District 4 residents vote for mayor and therefore this payoff of liens is a way to gain votes.