Tigard Approves Longer Utility Repayment Plans

Tigard residents who are behind on their water and sewer bills now have the option of working out a long-term payment plan with the city, thanks to a temporary measure passed last month by the City Council. (JOSH KULLA/TIGARD LIFE)

Customers experiencing hardship now have up to three years to repay water bills

If you are months behind on your Tigard water and sewer bill, the City will be cutting you a little more slack this year.  

The City suspended utility shut-offs and waived fees on late payments last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But those policies will be ending on April 1, leaving roughly 550 customers with overdue payments in something of a lurch. Some are in more dire straits than others, with around 20 percent of those overdue customers owing the City more than $1,000 in late payments. 

The Tigard City Council, however, recently approved a temporary ordinance that will allow those customers to negotiate a payment plan with the City up to three years in length. The ordinance will last for six months after the city ends its COVID-19 emergency declaration, a date that is not yet final at the time of publication. 

“It’s really important that we make sure we can get our community through the impacts of COVID,” Councilor Liz Newton said.

Many of those overdue customers could also be eligible for financial assistance through the Tigard AID utility billing assistance program through at least June 30. That program was also created last year to aid customers who were unable to pay their utility bills because of COVID-19 related economic hardship.

For at least the next six months, however, customers who may not qualify for the aid program will still be able to negotiate a repayment plan in excess of the one-year limit normally allowed under City Code. 

“If you have somebody who is already about a year past due, and we’re trying to squeeze 12 months’ worth of late payments over a 12-month period,” City Finance and Information Services Director Toby LaFrance said, “we’ve effectively doubled their utility bill and that’s likely not to lead to a successful payment program.” 

A repayment plan structure has not yet been finalized. But LaFrance said a potential solution could be a tiered program that uses the number of months a customer has not paid combined with the dollar amount to set up a reasonable plan potentially up to three years in length, depending on the amount owed.