Detroit takes churches, schools to court over unpaid electric bills

The City of Detroit says it has no choice but to sue several churches and charter schools as it tries to recoup more than $800,000 in unpaid electric bills. 

City Attorney Melvin "Butch" Hollowell said there really isn't an option but to go after all the debts.

"It's important for us to be able to protect the assets of the city of Detroit," Hollowell said. "The plan of adjustment requires us to balance the budget so we have to collect all the dollars that are owed to the city of Detroit."

The city is out to collect $29 million. Part of that is the $800,000 from schools, churches, and even the Detroit Princess Riverboat. 

But the city says it is willing to work with people to get the bills squared away. People like Rev. Jim Holly whose church owes $74,000

"It's true," Holly said. "The whole city, everyone's falling on hard times the last five or six years. I'm not the only one."

The reason the city is going after churches and schools is that it needs to collect every dollar because of bankruptcy. The city's finances are under review by a financial review board. 

However, if the city can balance the books and make budget three years in a row, that board is gone and the city can run its own financial life.

That means paying firefighters, police officers, and other key members of the city. Rev. Holly says he gets it.

"I know they need it," Holly said. "I needed to give it to them so if anybody wants to help me with this, it's alright with me."

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