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'Uncollectible' city bills written off
April 24, 2019
Antonella Artuso

A City of Toronto committee on Tuesday approved nearly $1.5 million in writeoffs.

Accounts deemed uncollectible by city staff include a $249,440 water bill for a Liberty Village property, a $71,636 charge for relocating a downtown traffic light to accommodate construction, and $161,245 in lease adjustments ordered by city council but never implemented.

City spokesman Ashley Hammill said the Revenue Services Division has made improvements to billing and collection services, following up on recent auditor general recommendations.

$1.4 million owed to City of Toronto deemed uncollectible

The city now regularly produces listings to identify at-risk accounts and assigns them to internal collectors, and then to external collectors if necessary, she said, adding unpaid utility accounts are linked to tax accounts for collection.

“These measures will ensure that overdue utility amounts are identified and acted upon early, to prevent arrears from accumulating, or becoming at risk for collection,” she said.

The Toronto Sun asked city officials about some of the larger accounts that went unpaid.

What can be done to prevent unpaid utility bills, like the $249,440 water charge to 38 Joe Shuster Way?

“The utility arrears have been deemed uncollectible as the utility arrears arose from non-payment of a utility billing for water services for this condominium building by the developer. The development corporation underwent bankruptcy proceedings, and no longer owns any property in the City of Toronto, making it unlikely that the unpaid amounts would ever be collected.”

Why was a 2003 lease adjustment ordered by city council not noticed/implemented until now?

“In 2018, as a result of the expanded city-wide scope and mandate for Real Estate Services, the Division adopted a new organizational structure. This re-organization includes a new property management and lease administration function to focus on financial stewardship. As part of this process, an annual review of the lease portfolio is undertaken to ensure the division is adequately managing the lease administration process and maintaining an updated status of accounts.”