The city of Saline addresses some utility billing issues
Discretionary credits, meter reads and billing adjustments were some of the topics addressed in a recent memo from the Saline City Manager to city council.
At the Oct. 17 Saline City Council meeting, city manager Colleen O’Toole’s memo to council was accepted and then council also authorized the issuance of one-time discretionary sewer credits for the first quarter FY23 billing cycle.
The Sun Times News reached out to O’Toole to sum up this part of the meeting.
She said the takeaways from the meeting include:
- The City will automatically be issuing credits for roughly 97 percent of ratepayers who were impacted by an earlier than usual billing cycle. This includes calculating an adjustment based on using the old consumption rates for 22 days in the billing cycle. Residents will be able to see this rate adjustment starting November 1st by visiting: https://bsaonline.com/?uid=286
- The City Council also approved my office considering additional credits for especially unique situations such as for individuals who were on a waitlist for receiving second meters due to supply chain disruptions.
- Last, Council directed staff to bring this subject back to our November 7th meeting to discuss if any additional credits should be considered.
Here is the background brief in O’Toole’s memo to council:
“Since our October 3rd meeting staff has responded to approximately 260 unique resident inquiries. Most calls or in person conversations centered around clarifying our billing practices or assisting residents with understanding how to access their usage history through BS&A online. Of those inquiries, 57 resulted in scheduled in-home inspections with approximately 20 more still scheduled as of October 13th. In about half of all cases DPW crews identified a leak. Most other cases could be explained through some other usage, although at least one case was an actual meter read issue (truncation error) and there were at least two instances where a leak could not be readily detected but usage was still occurring when all water was off. Where a leak was discovered, City staff will issue sewer credits in accordance with our existing policy for any homeowners where the leak did not go back into the sewer - for example a leaking exterior fixture or hose.”
“In addition to the issues identified during some service visits, our finance department team also identified a trend of earlier than normal read dates that impacted most users. Historically, the City’s utility billing cycle is between 91-93 days for each billing quarter. During the second quarter of this year (March, April, and May 2022) reads were performed early, which resulted in the usage period for the third quarter (June, July, and August 2022) containing up to 22 days of May usage. In these cases, the percentage of usage for the 22-day period will be multiplied by the difference in consumption rates between the old rates and the new rates to calculate a billing adjustment. This change will require coordination with our software provider, BS&A, but we expect the changes to take effect no later than November 1, 2022. Impacted ratepayers will be able to see their adjusted rate online after that date. Those who have already paid this quarter's bill in full will see it as a credit on their next statement. More information is available on the City's website and notice will be shared when the adjustments are available for viewing online. Of note, for the average resident impacted by this adjustment the change is expected to be between $15 and $20.”
“During this process staff have also encountered some unique circumstances where it may be appropriate for discretionary sewer credits to be issued. For example, there were five households this summer on a waitlist for second meter installation. Those households would have otherwise received the benefit of no sewer fees if the meters had been available. In other cases, some excess water usage was necessitated by the nearby completion of city right of way projects and the restoration of grass in the right of way. There may yet be other unique circumstances involving water usage that was known to not go into the sewer system for which the City could offer a one-time credit. It is on this issue that staff is specifically recommending Council take action to authorize the City Manager, based on calculations performed by the City Treasurer, to grant those one-time exceptions.”
Questions can be directed to the public works department at 734-429-5624 or to city hall at 734-429-4907.
To learn more about this, you can go to the recording of the Oct. 17 city council meeting by going to this link and then clicking on the section titled online streaming video: https://www.cityofsaline.org/government/elected_officials/city_council/index.php