By Karolyn Gephart
Billing problems with Pearland utility bills was a concern discussed by City Council at their regular meeting February 24, 2020 at City Hall. Unintended consequences of a plan the City had put in place for the billing had become a problem and feedback from residents was not good.
A special City Council meeting was held on February 17, 2020 to discuss the billing delay of utility bills, how it happened and options the City would have to help end this problem.
In 2018, due to concerns about fluctuations in numbers of days billed, staff decided to set the billing cycle to read meters approximately every 28 days or four weeks per cycle beginning in July of that year.
Currently, billing is being completed monthly but meter reads are every 28 days. Billing for use is lagging behind actual meter reads so in trying to resolve the late arrival issues, some customers have received two bills in one month with two due dates within that month and erroneous delinquency notices.
City officials assure residents that no one has been double billed nor missed a bill and no money was lost. Customers will not pay more during billing delays. This plan to catch up with billing that was behind has not been accepted well by residents.
Council has put together a plan to resolve the billing problem and has four goals after the delayed billing problem is solved: monthly meter reads, billing monthly, billing to occur 10-15 days after meter reads, and amount of time between meter reads and bills issued to return to 10-15 days (industry standard levels).
To correct the current problem, Council had requested more information on the 32/30 plan which extends the read cycle from 28 days to 32 days on average and has the billing schedule reduced to every 30 days. This will gradually reduce the distance between the reading and billing over time.
Council was told that the plan will take billing into 2022 to reach the billing goal of 10-15 days after meter reads. The length of time to correct the problem bothered several Council members and the matter will again return next month with more information about the 32/30 plan as well as information about Option C -Bill the Full Amount Due Customers would be billed for all unbilled amounts in short succession with an option for payment plans.
Council was told the problem was found by auditors who then made the City aware of what was happening in utility billing.