PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portlanders who don't pay their sewer bills are about to get hammered with higher property taxes.

The city is forcing this trade-off because it says it has no other way of collecting the customer debts.

Unlike water, gas and electricity services, one can't really shut off sewer service. It's buried underground. So that leaves sewer-bill collectors only one way to force payment.

They're transferring all that sewer-customer debt to Multnomah County's Assessor who collects property taxes. In other words, on-going, long overdue sewer debt will be converted into property tax debt if unpaid.

City records show the largest delinquency belongs to the Albright family of SE Portland.

The family owns and operates an apartment complex on SE 154th and SE Stark.

The Albrights' owe $41,000 in sewer payments.

With pressure from crime, the economy, and tightened bank lending, Kurt Albright says there was little choice but to skip his sewer payments and reinvest his dwindling revenue back into the property through apartment finish and appliance upgrades.

We're suffering out here and the city wants to charge us more and more and more on the sewer bills that we don't have; we just straight up don't have, said Albright.

The City says it's not a lending institution.

It will transfer more than $300,000 in customer sewer-debt to the County Assessor this week.

They will eventually lose their property through a tax foreclosure if they don't pay it, said John Popenuk, City of Portland Customer Service Supervisor.

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