utility billing best practices - Florida Government Finance Officers

Report
“UTILITY BILLING BEST PRACTICES”
The trials and tribulations of
dealing with water/sewer
customers and their bills
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.
I
Introduction
II
Overview – Hierarchy and Responsibilities of Staff
III
City Code – Chapter 32
IV
Bill Samples and Billing Rates
V
Bad Debt
VI
Refunds
VII
Mandatory Hook-up
VIII
Application Process
IX
Collections
X
Cut-Off Policy
XI
Opportunity to Increase Payment
XII
Questions and Answers
XIII
Appendix Material
City of Melbourne Website
Section I
Introduction
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.”
B)  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.
Section II
Overview – Hierarchy &
Responsibilities Of Staff
Financial Systems
Administrator
Utility Billing Special
Chief Accounts Clerks
(3)
Financial Services
Director of Finance
Customer
Service
Manager
Sr. Accounts Clerks
(5)
Accounts Clerks
(5)
Accounts Clerks
– Part Time (2) –
AARP
Switchboard
Operator
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
Section III
City Code – Chapter 32
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
Section IV
Bill Samples and Billing Rates
Residential Customers’ Water and Sewer Security Deposit
¾ inch meter - $120.00
*
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 SIZE
WATER COST
SEWER 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 larger
To be negotiated
City Code Sec. 32-78
Construction Meter Water Sales:
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 SIZE
DEPOSIT AMOUNT
¾ inch
$150.00
1 inch
$300.00
2 inch
$1,000.00
Deposit is refunded when the meter is returned.
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.
TWO TYPES OF BILLING
Regular paper
bills via
U.S. Mail
E-Bills
Billing Functions are outsourced with AXIS
Bill due date:
25th day of the cycle
Late Fee Applied:
26th day of the cycle
ACH Bills with bank draw:
25th day of the cycle
Final Bills:
Security deposit credit refunded
SAMPLE RESIDENTIAL ACCOUNT COMPUTATION
Each week of month is a regular billing period for 12,000 to 16,000 Bill Accounts.
Approximately 700 – 800 accounts are finaled monthly.
* Waste Management Contract ** Funds utilized to manage Recycling Division
AMOUNT
RATE
Water Base Charge (inside)
Water Consumption
TOTAL
$7.58
8,000 Gallons
$4.66
Sewer Base Charge (inside)
Sewer Consumption
CALC.
+37.28
$ 44.86
$11.21
8,000 Gallons
$6.49
$51.92
$63.13
Utility Tax (none)
Garbage *
$6.50
Recycling/Yard Trash *
$4.07
Sanitation Service Charge **
Shut Off Charge
Late Fee 1.5%
$.27
Minimum
$30.00
$5.00
SAMPLE COMMERCIAL ACCOUNT COMPUTATION
*Waste Management Contract
** Funds utilized to manage Recycling Division
Shut Off Charge $30.00
Late Fee 1.5% , Minimum $5.00
AMOUNT
RATE
CALC.
Water Base Charge (inside)
14 ERCs
$7.58
$106.12
Water Consumption
112,000 Gallons
$4.66
+521.92
Sewer Base Charge (inside)
14 ERCs
$11.21
$156.94
Sewer Consumption
112,000 Gallons
$6.49
$726.88
Utility Tax
TOTAL
$628.04
$883.82
None
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
*** Call Commercial Customers or use Door Knocker
$2,476.62
The City of Melbourne provides billing services for the
following cities at “outside” City rates for city water and
Brevard County sewer charges:
City of
Melbourne
Beach
Town of
Palm
Shores
City of
Indialantic
The City
of
Melbourne
City of
Satellite
Beach
City of
Indian
Harbour
Beach
The City of Melbourne provides billing services for Utility
Taxes - charges each City a billing service fee:
Indian
Harbour
Beach
6% Tax
West
Melbourne
8% Tax
Indialantic
10% Tax
The City
of
Melbourne
Palm
Shores
10% Tax
Melbourne
Beach
9.5% Tax
Melbourne
Village
6% Tax
Notably absent: City of Melbourne customers have no Utility Tax
The City of Melbourne bills sanitation services for the
following companies under contract:
Waste Management
Waste Pro
(Back door, curbside, multi-family)
for garbage, recycling and
yard trash
(Back door, curbside, multi-family)
for garbage, recycling and
yard trash
Customer Contacts:
 Letter
 Telephone
 Outside Drop Box
 Lobby Drop Box
 Email
 Fax
 Customer Walk Ins
Section V
Bad Debt
A) Write off/bad debt
1) 3 years history of write offs
2) write off as a percentage of water sales
WATER SALES
2011
2012
2013
• $26,291,280
• $27,694,566
• $27,579,821
BAD DEBT
2011
2012
2013
• $207,959.11
011
• $228,473.46
• $128,143.18
PERCENTAGE OF BAD DEBT TO WATER SALES
2011
2012
2013
• 008% less than 1%
• .008% less than 1%
• .005% less than 1%
B)
2011
2012
2013
SEWER CHARGES
• $17,536,902
• $17,928,518
• $18,220,110
RECONNECTION CHARGE $30.00
SHUT OFF FOR NON PAYMENT
2011
2012
2013
• $309,767
• $315,000
• $267,000
3% UTILITY TAX BILLING FEE
2011
2012
2013
• $8,803
• $8,600
• $8,991
SERVICE
INITIATION FEE
SERVICE FEE
BROKEN METER OR CURBSTOP
2011
2012
2013
• $21,119
• $28,000
• $20,062
2011
2012
2013
• $165,295
• $170,000
• $164,319
WASTE MANGEMENT
BILLING FEE
$.79 PER BILL
2011
2012
2013
• $300,453
• $306,000
• $285,119
WASTE PRO
BILLING FEE
$.79 PER BILL
2011
2012
2013
• $13,274
• $12,600
• $14,787
BILLING FEES
MELBOURNE VILLAGE
3% UTILITY TAX REVENUE
2011
2012
2013
• $2,812
• $3,000
• $2,925
PALM BAY (SEWER)
$1.59 PER BILL
2011
2012
2013
• $7,660
• $7,700
• $7,710
BILLING FEES
BREVARD COUNTY (SEWER)
$1.59 PER BILL
2011
2012
2013
• $382,256
COCOA BEACH (SEWER)
$3.00 PER BILL
2011
• $384,500
2012
• $366,819
2013
• $12,885
• $12,650
• $13,401
RECLAIMED WATER
SALES
2011
2012
2013
• $167,519
• $175,000
• $177,689
LATE FEES 1.5%
$5.00 MINIMUM
2011
2012
2013
• $526,433
• $550,000
• $509,505
RECORDING FEES
Administrative Fee
$25.00
Recording Fee
$25.00
2011
2012
2013
• $27,700
• $35,000
• $21,973
Section VI
Refunds
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
SEWER ADJUSTMENTS
YEAR
NUMBER OF
ACCOUNTS
GALLONS
IN THOUSANDTHS
DOLLAR
AMOUNT
2011
436
15,036.1
$91,953.47
2012
466
22,031.5
$140,102.79
2013
424
26,571.8
$113,108.70
WATER ADJUSTMENTS
YEAR
NUMBER OF
ACCOUNTS
GALLONS
IN THOUSANDTHS
DOLLAR
AMOUNT
2011
130
12,243.5
$52,183.58
2012
117
13,338.4
$57,376.08
2013
101
11,178.2
$49,869.64
Section VII
Mandatory Hook-up
 WATER AND SEWER IMPACT FEES
 WATER AND SEPTIC SYSTEM
 WATER ONLY
 ANNEXATION – BILL GARBAGE ONLY (TEMPORARY)
MAY BILL BASED ON A FIVE-YEAR LINE EXTENSION PAYMENT
PLAN – INTEREST INCLUDED
Section VIII
Application Process
A)
B)
C)
D)
E)
F)
G)
H)
I)
Refundable Security Deposit – Residential ¾” Meter
$43.00 Water and $77.00 Sewer
Non-refundable Initiation Fee
Rental Lease
Picture Identification – Driver’s License/Passport
Ownership Documentation or HUD Statement
Annual Water and Sewer Rates
ERC Where Applicable
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
Section IX
Collections
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
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
LIENS
Following Lien Schedule for Liens and Lien Releases
2008 – 2011 Liens Gradually Increased
LIENS FILED
Year
No. of
Liens
2011
LIENS RELEASED
Revenue
Year
No. of
Liens
237
$68,661.80
2011
215
$57,871.09
2012
455
$149,482.55
2012
333
$97,981.32
2013
303
$91,479.97
2013
403
$137,667.36
Revenue
Section X
Cut-off Policy
 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
BILLING ERRORS
A)
B)
C)
D)
Billing Adjustments for Incorrect Reads
Utilize the High and Low Report
Estimated Bills – Flooding, etc.
Utilize Skipped Bill Report
THEFT OF WATER
A)
B)
C)
D)
Fraudulent Lease
Squatters – Residence
Former Owners Renting Their Foreclosed Property
Account in a Different Customer’s Name – to Avoid
Existing Balance
E) Accounts Left in Owner’s Name
COORDINATION WITH CHARITIES
A) Vouchers
B) Shut Off for Delinquent Bills
C) Utility Bill Balance – No Security Deposit
CUT OFF POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
A)
B)
C)
D)
E)
Threshold Balance–Equal to or Greater than $75
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Melbourne, Beaches, Eau Gallie (Schedule)
Shut Off Date is Noted on Bill
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
PROCESS
 Check Special Condition Notes
 Date Generated
 Work Orders
 EFT
 Text
 Account Inquiry
900 Metered Accounts Shut Off per Month
# OF ACCTS ON SONP LIST
C1 611-650
C1 110-119
C1 120-124
C1 205-221
MAY
35
44
24
39
C2 655-745
C2 127-139
C2 140-150
C2 222-250
JUNE
53
42
22
43
JULY
50
45
38
55
65
40
58
43
34
68
75
79
AUG
49
44
28
53
SEPT
31
37
26
45
59
26
34
47
C3 817-870
C3 151-155
C3 156-162
C3 254-337
34
21
70
52
37
23
54
68
43
32
30
28
57
40
81
58
44
26
62
74
C4 912-957
C4 170-181
C4 182-191
C4 341-411
14
72
37
14
28
85
28
10
27
83
40
16
37
85
43
24
20
62
27
15
MINIMUM $$$ ON SONP LIST
MAY
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
JUNE
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
JULY
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$85.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$115.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
AUG
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
SEPT
$100.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
C1
C1
C1
C1
611-650
110-119
120-124
205-221
C2
C2
C2
C2
655-745
127-139
140-150
222-250
C3
C3
C3
C3
817-870
151-155
156-162
254-337
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$100.00
$125.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$115.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
C4
C4
C4
C4
912-957
170-181
182-191
341-411
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$75.00
$115.00
$115.00
$85.00
Section XI
Opportunity To Increase Payment
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)
Section XII
Questions & Answers
Section XIII
Appendix Material
Ingrid Gaskin-Friar
City of Melbourne Customer Service Manager
321-608-7160
[email protected]
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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