Audit: City of Sparta owed $1.9 million in unpaid taxes, utility bills

An audit for Sparta shows $1.9 million in unpaid tax revenue for the city, mostly coming from water, sewer and property tax bills/Evan Watson (WGXA)

SPARTA, Ga. -- An audit for Sparta's end of financial year for 2017 reveals that the city has an outstanding balance for its accounts receivable of over #1 million dollars for its water and sewage fund accounts.

Other outstanding balances include:

  • $473,010 in general taxes, most of which are property taxes;
  • $156,512 in natural gas bills; and
  • $270,672 for non-major funds.

According to the audit, only about $930,000 of the city's outstanding balances would be collectible.

The audit also labels delinquencies in the city's utilities department as "excessive" and lists them as a major concern. "These large receivable balances are partially due to cut-off procedures in place by the utilities department," it says. This means that Sparta is either not cutting off utilities soon enough, or is allowing residents who don't pay to still receive services.

The audit adds that, "the utilities accounts receivable balances continue to increase," and recommends that the city "enhance their cut-off and collection efforts."

Mayor Pro Tem Allen Haywood called the outstanding balances "unacceptable" and said that something needs to be done to collect the funds. At Monday night's city council meeting, Haywood proposed a work session for March 19, where the council will determine how to address the ongoing issues.

“You can’t get money out of people who can’t afford to pay the money if they’re delinquent. But then again, you can’t let it keep getting larger. That’s the problem - is the accounts receivable keeps growing," he said.

Haywood also referenced a previous report by WGXA where it was shown that Sparta's outstanding balance for its water and sewage bills stood around $700,000. He said that the fact these amounts have only increased since then is discouraging.

“We won’t meet budget. I mean, we’ll be in the red if we can’t continue to collect," said Haywood.

Sparta resident Dip Polatty was shocked by the audit's findings and thinks it's unfair to those who are paying their taxes. He added that Sparta isn't able to maintain it's building, fix roads or perform other city functions because of the outstanding balances.

“It’s insulting, its frustrating. Like I said, I’ve never lived in a location like this," said Polatty.

Resident Sherry Morrison believes that there isn't a good solution to the problem the city is now facing, because it's likely those living in poverty who aren't able to pay their bills. She said that cutting off utilities and forcing these residents to move out could just cause more problems down the road.

Morrison added that, ideally, more jobs and higher income levels would help solve the problem, but said she's not ultimately sure what could be done.

Sparta Mayor William Evans declined to comment for this report.

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