Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 31, 1999
not raise utility rate
By MICHELLE J. WILSON
Published Aug. 31, 1999
City of Troy officials say they hope a proposed change in the billing procedures for utilities will give customers more of an incentive to pay on time.
Two ordinances proposed to Troy City Council will be on the agenda Sept. 7.
The proposed Ordinance 166 would give city utility customers about 12 more days to pay their bills, including late and nonpayment fees, than they currently have before their power is cutoff.
The ordinance would not increase the late fee as previously reported.
Ordinance 167 deals with the administration of the utility billing process.
Under the current billing procedure, residents and businesses receive their utility bills in the mail around the first of the month, said Alton Starling, Troy city clerk and treasurer. The bill, which includes charges for electricity, water, sewer and garbage collection, is due on or before the 10th of that month.
If the bill is not paid on time, a late payment fee totaling $7 – $5 for electricity and $2 for water – is added to the balance, Starling said. The city sends the customer a bill letting him know about the fee.
If the property owner does not pay the bill by the 20th of the month, his power is disconnected, and the account is assessed a $25 reconnection fee – $20 for electricity and $5 for water, he said.
City workers must come to the residence or business to turn off the power, and they leave the total bill at that time.
"The reconnection fee is added when the account becomes delinquent because we know we will have to reconnect the service," Starling said.
Under the changes proposed in Ordinance 166, residents and businesses would continue to get their utility bills in the mail around the first of the month. The bill would continue to be due on or before the 10th of that month.
If the bill is not paid on time, a late payment fee totaling $7 – $5 for electricity and $2 for water – or five percent of the total bill, whichever is greater, is added to the balance, Starling said. This is the first way the proposed policy differs from the current rules.
The proposed change to the late fee will not affect most customers, he said. The average customer whose bill is less than $100 will not see an increase in the late fee if he does not pay on time because $7 is greater than five percent of $100, or $5. However, if a customer’s bill is greater than $100, he would see an increase in the late fee based on how much he owes if he chooses to pay late.
If the property owner does not pay the bill by the 20th of the month, he is issued a nonpayment fee of $20. Under the present system, the power would be disconnected at this time, and the customer would be charged a $25 reconnection fee. The fee at this point is $5 less than that at $20, and the power stays on.
The proposed ordinance extends utility cutoff to the third day of the following month. At that time, the power is disconnected, and the account is assessed a $25 reconnection fee – $20 for electricity and $5 for water. The proposed change will not affect utility rates, Starling said.
It would help customers by giving them more time to pay their bills before the utilities are disconnected, he said. It would help the city because the late fee of five percent of the total bill encourages large accounts to pay on time.
Troy Mayor Jimmy C. Lunsford said the city has two reasons behind the proposed change to the utility billing procedure.
"The 20th of the month cutoff is very expensive for the city because we go out to the residences and cut off the power," Lunsford said. "By extending the cutoff date to the third of the month, we hope more people will pay their bills with the added fees so we don’t have to cut off their power."
Lunsford said the proposed change would allow the city to be a better steward of public funds.
"We’re managing public funds, and we need to ensure we are not providing electricity at no cost to any members of the public," he said. "It incurs costs on the citizens who pay their bills on time to support the few who don’t."
City officials picked the third to accommodate citizens because that is when government checks, such as social security benefits, are issued, Lunsford said.
"The five percent late fee will not have a tremendous impact on the average family that does not pay its bill on time, but it will have a major impact on large accounts," he added. "The five percent is directed at a few accounts that are always late in paying."