Flint water bills are some of the highest in the country

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FLINT (WJRT) - UPDATE: (02/15/17) - Water bill credits from the state will end this month for Flint residents, despite an attempt from Mayor Karen Weaver to get an extension.

Weaver says she's deeply concerned about the position that the city and its residents are in now that people will be paying full price for water.

She says water payments are one of the only revenue streams into the city.

The city uses the money to pay for water from the Great Lakes Water Authority. That's more than $1 million per month.

It's also used to cover the KWA pipeline debt, which is another $440,000 per month.

If people stop paying once the credits are gone, that could have a devastating financial impact.

ABC12 News reached out to municipalities in some of the country's driest cities to see what they pay each month for water:

Riverside, CA $38.45
Phoenix, AZ $38.85
Las Vegas, NV $48.70
Dallas, TX $55.89

The City of Flint couldn't give us an average of what customers pay. We have seen everything from $60 per month, into the hundreds.

One viewer posted her January bill to the ABC12 Facebook page. The resident paid about $150 for just the water portion. The state water credits knocked it down to about $50.

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(02/14/17) - Governor Snyder showed up about 45 minutes later than planned, but said the meeting ran long because it was constructive.

He explained the majority of the conversation focused on other State efforts to continue to help the City of Flint.

"We had a good healthy discussion about how we can continue to work together in Flint," Governor Snyder said.

But he announced he no longer has authority to have the state help pay the water bills.

"We are following along with what we said we would do, which is basically until the water is deemed to be to acceptable standards," the Governor explained.

Governor Snyder says November tests show the water has met the federal guidelines for lead. So, he pointed out the water credits could've actually stopped in December, but they waited for the January meeting - pushing the deadline to the end of February.

Mayor Weaver didn't speak to the media after the meeting, but mentioned Monday the decision caught her off guard.

"We're all frustrated. You know, I'm a resident as well and I'm frustrated, too. And we're going to continue to try to get as much from the state as we possibly can and that part has not changed," she said.

Governor Snyder says even though that assistance ends, other funding for the City will not.

He pointed out his addition of nearly $50 million for Flint, laid out in the budget proposal.

And he says they'll continue providing water and filters and cartridge replacements in the effort to move Flint forward.

"So it wasn't about just one issue and one item of different perceptions or views. It was really about how we could work together on you know continuing to see the recovery of Flint happen, everything from lead service line replacements to how to we bring more jobs to Flint," Governor Snyder said.

State Representative Sheldon Neeley is expressing frustration about the decision.

The Democrat has issued a letter to the Governor urging his office to maintain the water credits, saying it only compounds the distrust and turmoil plaguing the Flint community.

In the letter to Snyder, Neeley says while progress has been made in addressing the quality of the water, residents are still being told not to drink the water unless it has been properly filtered. Neeley says because of that, critical financial help should not be taken away from Flint residents.

“I think we need to roll out this plan much better. I think the Governor's Office and also the administration inside the City of Flint needs to spell out what's going on with the water and then have a level of trust because the City of Flint residents suffer from trauma. They've been traumatized in the community and right now to just cut off something cold turkey doesn't really bode well with many residents,” Neeley said.

To read Neeley's full letter, click the document in the 'Related Documents' section of this story.

We will be following this story.

The mayor has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday afternoon to discuss her thoughts on how it went.

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(02/13/17) - Flint's mayor is confirming the Governor will meet with her Tuesday as the city reels from word that state water bill credits will end this month.

Mayor Karen Weaver is urging the state to reconsider and extend what's become a lifeline for many residents.

People in Flint have been getting a 65-percent credit on water bills.

Sometimes those bills can be $300.

Now, with just a few weeks notice, the city has learned those credits will end this month.

The reason - the state says the city's water is meeting federal guidelines for lead, but people are still being told not to drink from the tap unless it's with a filter.

Weaver and her administration are concerned without the credits - people won't be able to pay their bills, which mean's the city will take a hit, too.

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6:00 p.m. - Water bill credits from the state end this month in Flint.

Some people say without them, they won't be able to pay their water bills - which could lead to shutoffs and a budget deficit for the city.

Flint's mayor is addressing the problem.

Mayor Karen Weaver tells us she called Governor Rick Snyder right after getting the news credits would be over in just two weeks, to set up a meeting to see if they can be extended. Her administration was under the impression they didn't end until the end of March.

Last spring, Snyder created the program to give residents a 60 percent credit back on water bills that they're paying. It was a way to get people to pay them at all.

In a letter to the mayor's office last week, the state says they're ending the credit program this month because they say water testing shows the city's water is meeting federal guidelines for lead.

People are still being told, however, not to drink the water without a filter, or use bottled.

Weaver says the city was planning on having those credits for families and businesses through the end of March.

With some people receiving $300, even $400 water bills per month, without the credits, some people simply won't be able to pay.

Weaver is planning to meet with Snyder as soon as possible.

“We are all frustrated. I'm a resident as well and I'm frustrated too and we are going to continue to try and get as much from the state as we possibly can. That part has not changed,” she said.

Worst case scenario - if the state won't extend credits through March, the city will take a hit financially, and of course, the residents will too.

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(02/10/17) - A state suspension of water credits for Flint residents is leading to a protest at city hall. Dozens met to voice their concern over high water bills for water they say they still can't use.

The state has been giving people a 65 percent credit for each water bill since last spring, but that ends at the end of February.

"It was a shock. I mean, you would think for a decision that big that's going to affect every family individually that you would give notice and give more time. For a lot of people that are continuing to pay their water bills, that 65 percent credit made a huge difference," said water activist Melissa Mays.

Last spring, Governor Rick Snyder created the credit program to give residents a break with their high water bills, in addition to giving more of an incentive to get more people paying the bills again.

The state says the reason they're ending the credits is because they say sampling shows the city's water is meeting federal guidelines for lead.

However, people are still being told not to drink the water without a filter or use bottled water.

Residents who attended the protest carried around water bills for $300 or $400. They tell us they don't know how they're going to pay that without any reimbursement.

"I barely, I flush the toilet, I flush the toilet, you telling me I have $400 worth of flushed toilet water that's being used. I don't understand it," said Flint resident Carolyn Bennett.

A statement from Mayor Karen Weaver says she is disappointed with this news. She's requested a meeting with the Governor to see if they will extend credits.

We're expected to hear more from her Monday morning at a news conference.



 
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