NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY -

The City of New Bern says it is cracking down on people skipping out on their utility bills.

A new policy, enacted on July 1st, is a plan the city hopes will reduce the amount of annual write offs. The city says each year, it writes off over a half million dollars in unpaid utility bills.

The new policy has two main components. First--the city has scaled back on how many times a person can negotiate a payment plan to pay their bill. It use to be 12 months a year, that has now been reduced to 10 months. The second component--a deposit for delinquent payment users. The city says when a person comes in to make a payment plan-- if they have a history of not paying their bills--- they have to make a deposit based on their outstanding balance. City officials say customer's have until the end of the fiscal year to finish making that deposit. That mean's a person's deposit will need to be paid in full by June 30, 2015--before the new fiscal year starts on July 1, 2015.

On Wednesday, community members organized a meeting to talk about the new policy. Concerned citizens decided to meet at the Shiloh Church. During the meeting, concerned customers compared personal experiences about how they have been impacted by these changes. Citizens have started a petition that have 400 signatures in opposition of the new policy. The petition will be presented at the next Board of Aldermen meeting in August.

Officials say this new policy affects six percent of New Bern utility customers.