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“UTILITY BILLING BEST PRACTICES” The trials and tribulations of dealing with water/sewer customers and their bills.

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Presentation on theme: "“UTILITY BILLING BEST PRACTICES” The trials and tribulations of dealing with water/sewer customers and their bills."— Presentation transcript:

1 “UTILITY BILLING BEST PRACTICES” The trials and tribulations of dealing with water/sewer customers and their bills

2 Florida Government Finance Officers Association (FGFOA) School of Government Finance – November 18-22, 2013 “UTILITY BILLING BEST PRACTICES” Presentation by Ingrid Gaskin-Friar November 21, 2013 – 10:00 a.m. – 11:40 a.m. City of Melbourne Website IIntroduction IIOverview – Hierarchy and Responsibilities of Staff IIICity Code – Chapter 32 IVBill Samples and Billing Rates VBad Debt VIRefunds VIIMandatory Hook-up VIIIApplication Process IXCollections XCut-Off Policy XIOpportunity to Increase Payment XIIQuestions and Answers XIIIAppendix Material

3 Introduction Section I

4 LEADERSHIP A) Wren, J.T. (Ed.). (1995). The Leader’s Companion: Insights on Leadership Through the Ages. New York: Free Press, p.70. Water:“The wise leader is like water. Consider Water: Water cleanses and refreshes all creatures without distinction and without judgment; Water freely and fearlessly goes deep beneath the surface of things; Water is fluid and responsive; Water follows the law freely. Consider the Leader: The Leader works in any setting without complaint, with any person or issue that comes on the floor; the Leader acts so that all will benefit and served well regardless of the rate of pay; the Leader speaks simply and honestly and intervenes in order to shed light and create harmony. From watching the movements of Water, the Leader has learned that in action, timing is everything. Like Water, the Leader is yielding. Because the Leader does not push, the group does not resent or resist.”

5  The City of Melbourne bills approximately 58,000 utility customers monthly.  Staff address 8,000 to 10,000 calls monthly.  The City utilizes Tyler, MUNIS CIS-software for its utility billing.  Water and Sewer rates increased by an average of 7% in this fiscal year, in accordance with a five-year rate plan approved by Melbourne City Council in May 2012.  The water and sewer system budget is proposed to increase by $1,897,846 from this past year.  Total water sales: $24,000,000 Sewer charges: $18,000,000 Note: The City of West Melbourne utilizes the City’s bulk water sales at the inside City rate. The City of West Melbourne utilizes 9% of the City of Melbourne’s water sales. B)

6 Overview – Hierarchy & Responsibilities Of Staff Section II

7 Financial Services Director of Finance Customer Service Manager Financial Systems Administrator Utility Billing Special Chief Accounts Clerks (3) Sr. Accounts Clerks (5) Accounts Clerks (5) Accounts Clerks – Part Time (2) – AARP Switchboard Operator

8 STAFFING RESPONSIBILITIES RELATING TO CUSTOMER SERVICE CALLS:  Four (4) Accounts Clerks provide cashiering function in conjunction with Customer Service at the front office.  Chief Accounts Clerks and Senior Accounts Clerks assist with Customer Telephone calls in conjunction with other daily assignments.  Utility Billing Specialist addresses customer complaints transferred from staff, prior to forwarding to the Customer Service Manager.  Financial Systems Administrator is responsible for all technological improvements/upgrades and month end closing.  Customer Service Manager addresses customer complaints that are forwarded from the Utility Billing Specialist, Director of Finance, and City Manager/Council.  Finance Director assumes the customer complaint, if the customer refuses to speak with the Customer Service Manager.  City Manager delegates customer complaints to Director of Finance and/or Customer Service Manager for resolution. 99 % OF CUSTOMER ISSUES ARE ADDRESSED AT THE STAFFING LEVEL

9 City Code – Chapter 32 Section III

10 City of Melbourne Utility Billing City Code City Manager: (Reference City Code Sections below) MELBOURNE CITY CODE Sec. 32-11 Administrative Adjustments to Utility Bills MELBOURNE CITY CODE Sec. 32-79 Authorized to provide adjustments to Water Bills MELBOURNE CITY CODE Sec. 32-308 Sewer Service Rate

11 Bill Samples and Billing Rates Section IV

12 * Water and Sewer Security Deposits vary by size of meter or number of units for multi-family establishments and by city ** Commercial customers -2 ½ times the average monthly bill at same location METER SIZEWATER COSTSEWER COST ¾”$43.00$77.00 1”$107.50$192.50 1 ½”$215.00$385.00 2”$344.00$616.00 3”$791.00$1,416.80 4”$1,075.00$1,925.00 6”$2,150.00$3,850.00 8” or largerTo be negotiated Residential Customers’ Water and Sewer Security Deposit ¾ inch meter - $120.00

13 A customer may tap a fire hydrant for construction use only with permission from the City and after placing a meter deposit and payment for the water used based on volume registered by the meter. METER SIZEDEPOSIT AMOUNT ¾ inch$150.00 1 inch$300.00 2 inch$1,000.00 Deposit is refunded when the meter is returned. City Code Sec. 32-78 Construction Meter Water Sales:

14 1.View a Typical Bill Charges: Water Sewer Garbage Recycling Yard Trash 2.Advisory Notes on back of utility bill:  City of Melbourne water, sewer, garbage, recycling and yard trash, reclaim water  City of Melbourne water, Brevard County sewer, garbage, recycling, yard trash, and utility tax  City of Melbourne water, City of Cocoa Beach sewer  City of Melbourne water, City of Palm Bay sewer (Lakes of Melbourne)  City of Melbourne water, City of West Melbourne sewer* Late Fee, Shut Off Fee, Lien Fee are also included on the bill  Bills include a Shut Off date where applicable *The City of West Melbourne utilizes the City of Melbourne’s bulk water sales at the inside City of Melbourne rate.

15 TWO TYPES OF BILLING Billing Functions are outsourced with AXIS Bill due date:25 th day of the cycle Late Fee Applied:26 th day of the cycle ACH Bills with bank draw:25 th day of the cycle Final Bills:Security deposit credit refunded Regular paper bills via U.S. Mail E-Bills

16 Each week of month is a regular billing period for 12,000 to 16,000 Bill Accounts. Approximately 700 – 800 accounts are finaled monthly. AMOUNTRATECALC.TOTAL Water Base Charge (inside)$7.58 Water Consumption8,000 Gallons$4.66+37.28$ 44.86 Sewer Base Charge (inside)$11.21 Sewer Consumption8,000 Gallons$6.49$51.92$63.13 Utility Tax (none) Garbage *$6.50 Recycling/Yard Trash *$4.07 Sanitation Service Charge **$.27 Shut Off Charge Late Fee 1.5%Minimum $30.00 $5.00 SAMPLE RESIDENTIAL ACCOUNT COMPUTATION * Waste Management Contract ** Funds utilized to manage Recycling Division

17 *Waste Management Contract ** Funds utilized to manage Recycling Division Shut Off Charge $30.00 Late Fee 1.5%, Minimum $5.00 AMOUNTRATECALC.TOTAL Water Base Charge (inside)14 ERCs$7.58$106.12 Water Consumption112,000 Gallons$4.66+521.92$628.04 Sewer Base Charge (inside)14 ERCs$11.21$156.94 Sewer Consumption112,000 Gallons$6.49$726.88$883.82 Utility TaxNone Garbage *89 units$6.50$578.50 Recycling/Yard Trash *89 units$4.07$362.23 Sanitation Service Charge **89 units$.27$24.03 Shut off Charge*** Late Fee 1.5% Min. $5.00 Total Bill$2,476.62 *** Call Commercial Customers or use Door Knocker SAMPLE COMMERCIAL ACCOUNT COMPUTATION






23 The City of Melbourne City of Melbourne Beach City of Indialantic City of Indian Harbour Beach City of Satellite Beach Town of Palm Shores The City of Melbourne provides billing services for the following cities at “outside” City rates for city water and Brevard County sewer charges:

24 The City of Melbourne provides billing services for Utility Taxes - charges each City a billing service fee: The City of Melbourne Indian Harbour Beach 6% Tax Indialantic 10% Tax Melbourne Beach 9.5% Tax Melbourne Village 6% Tax Palm Shores 10% Tax West Melbourne 8% Tax Notably absent: City of Melbourne customers have no Utility Tax

25 The City of Melbourne bills sanitation services for the following companies under contract: Waste Management (Back door, curbside, multi-family) for garbage, recycling and yard trash Waste Pro (Back door, curbside, multi-family) for garbage, recycling and yard trash

26 Customer Contacts:  Letter  Telephone  Outside Drop Box  Lobby Drop Box  Email  Fax  Customer Walk Ins

27 Bad Debt Section V

28 A) Write off/bad debt 1) 3 years history of write offs 2) write off as a percentage of water sales WATER SALES 2011 $26,291,280 2012 $27,694,566 2013 $27,579,821

29 011 2011 $207,959.11 2012 $228,473.46 2013 $128,143.18 BAD DEBT

30 PERCENTAGE OF BAD DEBT TO WATER SALES 2011 008% less than 1% 2012.008% less than 1% 2013.005% less than 1%

31 B) SEWER CHARGES 2011 $17,536,902 2012 $17,928,518 2013 $18,220,110

32 2011 $309,767 2012 $315,000 2013 $267,000 2011 $8,803 2012 $8,600 2013 $8,991 RECONNECTION CHARGE $30.00 SHUT OFF FOR NON PAYMENT 3% UTILITY TAX BILLING FEE

33 2011 $21,119 2012 $28,000 2013 $20,062 2011 $165,295 2012 $170,000 2013 $164,319 SERVICE FEE BROKEN METER OR CURBSTOP SERVICE INITIATION FEE

34 2011 $300,453 2012 $306,000 2013 $285,119 2011 $13,274 2012 $12,600 2013 $14,787 WASTE MANGEMENT BILLING FEE $.79 PER BILL WASTE PRO BILLING FEE $.79 PER BILL

35 BILLING FEES 2011 $2,812 2012 $3,000 2013 $2,925 2011 $7,660 2012 $7,700 2013 $7,710 MELBOURNE VILLAGE 3% UTILITY TAX REVENUE PALM BAY (SEWER) $1.59 PER BILL

36 BILLING FEES 2011 $382,256 2012 $384,500 2013 $366,819 2011 $12,885 2012 $12,650 2013 $13,401 BREVARD COUNTY (SEWER) $1.59 PER BILL COCOA BEACH (SEWER) $3.00 PER BILL

37 2011 $167,519 2012 $175,000 2013 $177,689 2011 $526,433 2012 $550,000 2013 $509,505 RECLAIMED WATER SALES LATE FEES 1.5% $5.00 MINIMUM

38 2011 $27,700 2012 $35,000 2013 $21,973 RECORDING FEES Administrative Fee$25.00 Recording Fee$25.00

39 Refunds Section VI

40 A) History of water and sewer adjustments B) Approval process C) Melbourne City Code Sec. 32.308(d) LEAK ADJUSTMENTS:  Pool Fill  Pool Refill  Slab Leaks  Special City Manager Request SEWER CREDITS WILL NOT BE GRANTED FOR:  Broken or leaky water lines where the water enters the sanitary sewer system (leaky toilets or inside faucets)  Water used for irrigation  Negligent use of water  Undetermined use of water

41 YEAR NUMBER OF ACCOUNTS GALLONS IN THOUSANDTHS DOLLAR AMOUNT 201143615,036.1$91,953.47 201246622,031.5$140,102.79 201342426,571.8$113,108.70 SEWER ADJUSTMENTS

42 WATER ADJUSTMENTS YEAR NUMBER OF ACCOUNTS GALLONS IN THOUSANDTHS DOLLAR AMOUNT 201113012,243.5$52,183.58 201211713,338.4$57,376.08 201310111,178.2$49,869.64

43 Mandatory Hook-up Section VII


45 Application Process Section VIII

46 A) Refundable Security Deposit – Residential ¾” Meter B) $43.00 Water and $77.00 Sewer C) Non-refundable Initiation Fee D) Rental Lease E) Picture Identification – Driver’s License/Passport F) Ownership Documentation or HUD Statement G) Annual Water and Sewer Rates H) ERC Where Applicable I) ERC Computation for Multi-family & Commercial Accounts Exemption from Security Deposit: Twelve Consecutive Months of Good Pay History at a Prior Address Note: May Relinquish Capacity in Writing or After 12 Months, Pay Impact Fees or Pay Water and Sewer Base Charges

47 Collections Section IX

48 BANKRUPTCY A) Bankruptcy Court Documentation – Bankruptcy Date B) Compute Bankruptcy Amount – Amount Written Off C) New Account Established – Post Bankruptcy Date D) Type of Bankruptcy – Chapter 7, Chapter 11, etc. E) Receivership – Receiver Pays Utility Bills (legal document) Required to Change Name

49 LIENS AND COLLECTION AGENCIES A) $100.00 Minimum Balance to Place a Lien B) Lien on Owner Account C) Probate Documentation/New Owner to Establish Service

50 LIENS FILEDLIENS RELEASED LIENS Following Lien Schedule for Liens and Lien Releases 2008 – 2011 Liens Gradually Increased Year No. of Liens Revenue 2011237$68,661.80 2012455$149,482.55 2013303$91,479.97 Year No. of Liens Revenue 2011215$57,871.09 2012333$97,981.32 2013403$137,667.36

51 Cut-off Policy Section X

52  Automatic Meter Reader (AMR) Meter  ADE Meter with AMR Data Profile Capability:  Hourly Water Consumption Program – Graph  Downloaded and Formatted into Word Format  Manual Meters are Converted to AMRs  Remote Meter  Commercial/Multi-Family Units  5 Days Before – Notice Posted on Premise at Individual Units  Certified Letter Sent to Owner - $250 Connection Fee

53 BILLING ERRORS A) Billing Adjustments for Incorrect Reads B) Utilize the High and Low Report C) Estimated Bills – Flooding, etc. D) Utilize Skipped Bill Report THEFT OF WATER A) Fraudulent Lease B) Squatters – Residence C) Former Owners Renting Their Foreclosed Property D) Account in a Different Customer’s Name – to Avoid Existing Balance E) Accounts Left in Owner’s Name

54 COORDINATION WITH CHARITIES A) Vouchers B)Shut Off for Delinquent Bills C)Utility Bill Balance – No Security Deposit CUT OFF POLICIES AND PROCEDURES A) Threshold Balance–Equal to or Greater than $75 B) Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday C) Melbourne, Beaches, Eau Gallie (Schedule) D) Shut Off Date is Noted on Bill E) Shut Off a Week After date Stated on Bill; i.e., Shut Off Date 9/16/13; Shut Off 9/23/13 Approximately 900 Accounts Shut Off Monthly

55 PROCESS  Check Special Condition Notes  Date Generated  Work Orders  EFT  Text  Account Inquiry 900 Metered Accounts Shut Off per Month



58 Opportunity To Increase Payment Section XI

59 OPPORTUNITY TO INCREASE EASE OF PAYMENT BY:  Drop Box Outside City Hall  Drop Box in the Lobby of City Hall  ACH – Checking, Savings (Requires ACH Form)  Online Payment Access - Website PAYMENT VIA PAYMENT PROCESSOR:  Visa  Mastercard  Discover  American Express ($2.50 FEE FOR INCREMENTS OF $100.00) PAYMENT VIA E-CHECK:  Checking Account  Savings Account ($2.70 FEE FOR E-CHECK)

60 Questions & Answers Section XII

61 Appendix Material Section XIII

62 Ingrid Gaskin-Friar City of Melbourne Customer Service Manager Ms. Ingrid Gaskin-Friar joined the City of Melbourne in 1989. Ms. Gaskin-Friar has been the City of Melbourne Customer Service Manager for the past 15 years, where she manages Utility Billing and Collections and the Revenue Division, supported by a staff of 21 employees. Prior to serving as the City’s Customer Service Manager, Ingrid worked as the City of Melbourne Grants Administrator for 9 years, where she prepared grant applications and managed thousands of dollars in grant projects. Ingrid worked as a Tax Auditor with the State of Florida Department of Revenue in 1988, after holding several positions as staff accountant in the private sector and banking institutions. Ingrid received a MBA in 1993 from Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL and a BS in Public Accounting from Fordham University, Bronx, NY. Ingrid served as President of the Space Coast FGFOA Chapter from 2011-2013, is a 2013 Chairperson on Treasury/Debt Section Subcommittee of FGFOA School of Government Finance, and since 2005 has served as Treasurer of the Laurelwood Home Owners’ Association.

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