In a move that is being described as “retaliatory” against a Christian school that was overcharged water and sewer fees for decades, an Oregon town has redefined “apartment” to include a dorm room so that it annually can collect tens of thousands of dollars in fees.
A court case developed when the school discovered that among the 600-plus ordinances in the city was one that stated “churches, schools and nonprofits like our local YMCA and a non-profit senior residence will be charged double the normal water rates and substantially elevated sewage fees.”
The overcharging apparently had been going on for some 30 years.
The city also demanded that the surcharges were required “in lieu of taxes.”
Canyonville Christian Academy, founded in 1924, alleged that it probably paid close to $200,000 in improper charges.
Doug Wead, a New York Times bestselling author who is on the school board, said last June CCA notified the city government that it had discovered the improper billing, and since then there have been talks about how to resolve the problem.
Now, school officials have confirmed to WND that a recent meeting didn’t go well at all.
At the meeting, according to school officials, the city said new ordinances had been approved that removed the double water charges and sewer charges “in lieu of taxes.”
However, there were other changes.
According to a report from one of the school’s board members that was provided to WND, “Their strategy is to … reclassify our three dorms as ‘multiple family dwellings’ and consider every dorm room to be a dwelling that gets charged a sliding scale sewer base rate of $27 to $43 per dorm room per month.
“They calculate our three dorms as having 57 apartments,” the report said. “Obviously this scheme will vastly raise our sewer charges.”
The report said an additional change is that “every building on west campus is going to charged a base rate of $75 for water and $81.85 for sewer. This will be charged whether or not the building has a water meter … so this could result in another $500+ per month in fees.”
The report also confirmed the city had threatened the school with “$53,500 in back charges going back over 15 years for errors made by the city” … while offering $18,000 in adjustments for the estimated $200,000 in overcharges over the decades.”
“I think almost any reasonable person would agree that the city position is retaliatory,” the school’s report said.
WND left a message at the city’s offices requesting comment, but no one returned the call.
News of the dispute has spread to Yahoo.com and even was the subject of comment by Sir David Frost on his broadcast:
School headmaster Cathy Lovato earlier reported the school had tried to settle the dispute for a portion of the overpayments over the years, but the city refused.
Although the ordinances are written to cover all non-profit water users, CCA believes that the city regulations have principally targeted 10 churches and four Christian schools with the biggest bill going to the Canyonville Christian Academy.
She noted that a senior city official last year explained the city standard in imposing the surcharges.
“‘We do it because we can,’” she reported she was told.