PITTSBORO — Chatham County’s nearly 11,000 water utility customers haven’t received a bill since last October, so the March billing notice — consisting of the five previous months of …
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PITTSBORO — Chatham County’s nearly 11,000 water utility customers haven’t received a bill since last October, so the March billing notice — consisting of the five previous months of consumption — will come with the option of a payment plan to satisfy outstanding costs.
Jenny Williams, Chatham County’s tax administrator, says the most recent water bills were sent to the county’s 10,864 customers at the beginning of October, just prior to the cyber attack that effectively shut down the Chatham’s internal computer network.
County staff are engaged now in the process of reading meters, so it’s not known what the owed balances for those five months total.
“Currently we are reading meters and doing all preparatory work (examples: adding new customers, removing customers that are no longer with the county, applying payments that we have on file),” Williams told the News + Record in an email message. “The bills will go out the week of March 1st.”
Siler City and Pittsboro utility customers weren’t affected by the county’s ransomware attack.
Williams said in order to take advantage of the payment plan, Chatham water customers must call 919-542-8270 to set one up.
Williams also reminded utility customers the county is now accepting water connection applications and water payments at a new location — 192 West St. in Pittsboro, formerly the location of SunTrust Bank The new location offers the public access to a night deposit box and drive-thru payment service, she said. Drive-thru hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; vehicles should access the drive-thru from Rectory Street.
Hope Tally, the county’s interim finance director, said utility collections were the only revenue stream interrupted by the cyber attack — although the county will lose around $8,500 in state grant revenue related to Court Programs.
That loss was due to the county’s inability to access certain files it needed to satisfy the requirements of the grant.
“While we were able to extend other grant deadlines during our data recovery, this was not the case with this particular grant,” Tally said. “The inability to secure the grant reimbursement has not impacted our ability to provide services in the court-related program area.”
Meanwhile, the county’s sales tax revenue collections continue to be robust — particularly in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
Darrell Butts, Chatham County’s budget director, provided a report to commissioners at the board’s meeting on Feb. 15. It showed a 14.5% increase in collections, or $6,164,209 — based on available data — through October. Revenue from the county’s recently-implemented Article 46 tax had generated an additional $190,410.
The most notable aspect of sales tax collections, Butt said, has been the continued growth year over year.
“For the past several years, Chatham County’s sales tax growth has generally outpaced the state average as well as the projections that are provided to local governments by the N.C. League of Municipalities,” he said. “Additionally, it is notable that our sales tax collection in FY 2021 has continued to grow at such a solid rate — when preparing the FY 2021 budget there were significant concerns over what financial impacts the COVID-19 pandemic would ultimately have on the overall economy, including sales tax.”
Butts attributed the growth to the increasing trend of local e-shopping and having packages delivered direct to your door, and local residents staying closer to home during the pandemic.
Additionally, he said, Chatham is much less reliant on “external sales tax revenues” — taxes generated as a result of tourism and large events such as sports, concerts, etc. That has provided Chatham “a measure of protection from sales tax volatility due to those events not being able to operate in the same manner they did pre-pandemic.”
Butts said continued residential and commercial development — including Chatham Park/other construction activity — has helped stabilize, if not enhance, sales tax revenues during this fiscal year.