Community Ombudsman: Toledo’s monthly utility billing to help customers budgetWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
The launch of Toledo’s monthly utility program is costing the city $60,000, which includes postage to mail 109,000 packets to those eligible.
While some might question this expense during a critical economic crunch, Department of Public Utilities Director David Welch said customers and council members have been asking for such a program.
Quarterly bills were becoming overwhelming for some people, Welch said Jan. 11. Now that the bill includes the cost of supplying water and disposal of water and storm water, plus refuse pickup, customers wanted the option of paying monthly as opposed to receiving one larger bill every three months.
This launch is cheaper than a true monthly program, which would have cost upward of $2 million, because the city’s program is voluntary and primarily includes city residents, Welch said. Customers can choose to pay the monthly bill in full, pay a portion of the monthly bill or just wait until the quarterly statement is sent. If a customer pays monthly for a little while and then goes back to quarterly, that is fine, too, he said. No signup is required.
The packet that people should be receiving in the mail includes the stubs to pay monthly. Eight of the stubs will list an amount to be paid during the first two months of each quarterly billing period, which is based on the customer’s water usage during 2011, Welch said. The four other stubs remind customers to watch for their quarterly utility bill in the mail. This bill will list the monthly payments made and the balance due.
“The one thing that hasn’t changed is the need to pay your utility bill in full at the end of every billing period. The amount you pay voluntarily during the first two months of the billing period is flexible. As long as the customer makes the payment shown on their bill at the end of the billing period, everything will be fine,” Welch said in a news release.
All residential customers, who receive a utility bill directly from the City of Toledo are eligible to participate. This obviously applies to those who live within the city limits, but it also includes those in suburbs who receive a bill directly from the Department of Public Utilities, Welch said. However, if a township sends a bill for the city’s water those customers are ineligible to participate.
For example, I live in Monclova Township and have a Maumee mailing address. I receive my water bill directly from the City of Toledo; therefore, I am eligible to participate, Welch said. The best indicator of eligibility is receiving the packet in the mail.
Welch expects the program to help customers with budgeting, not necessarily the water bill collection rate, which is 98 percent. At this point, he doesn’t know how many customers will participate, but will reevaluate the program after one year, he said.