Galion utility customers have been asking the city for years to implement a budgeted payment plan. On Aug. 4, Utility Office Manager Dan Bute announced that day has come.
For the last several months, he been working with SSI, a software company the city uses for its account billing. The system has been reprogramed to allow customers to opt for a budget plan.
Throughout the month of August, people can sign up to take advantage of the offer. The Utility Office will calculate the average of the last 12 months of your billing history; this average will be the amount that you pay each month, regardless of how much electricity and water are used.
With budget billing, customers will pay this same amount each month, which will help most during winter months when utility bills tend to peak.
Currently the city is testing a few accounts in order to get feedback. Clarence Beach, a resident who has been advocating for budget billing for years, is the first customer to use this new structure.
You do not have to be a customer of all three city utilities to be eligible, but there are some criteria. Your account must be current on payments, you must have at least a 12 month billing history at your current residence (if not, you must agree to accept the billing history of the previous occupant), and you must agree to pay the full budget amount each month by the due date.
After two delinquent payments, an account is not eligible for budget billing for a full calendar year. Also, customers using budget billing are not eligible for other payment plans.
However, Bute explained every August is a “settle up” month. A customer may end the year with a credit or debit on their account next August. If they owe money because they used more electricity or water than what they paid for, the difference needs to be paid. Every six months the city will check each customer’s budget payment to ensure it accurately reflects average usage.
Because this is the first year for budget billing, Bute noted his office will try to be flexible. “Every customer has a unique situation. We’re willing to work with them,” he emphasized.
On Sept. 1, budget billing will roll out. Customers must sign up by Aug. 31 to be included, otherwise they will have to wait until August of 2015. Upon sign up, they will be informed of what the monthly payment will be. You can apply in person at the Utility Office or call 419-468-6611 or 419-468-6614.
The Utility Office will host Customer Appreciation Days on Thursday, Aug. 21, and Friday, Aug. 22. Customers are invited to stop in during business hours (9 a.m. - 4 p.m.) to receive free CFL light bulbs, rebate offers and to ask questions to a representative from Efficiency Smart. In addition, “Ernie Energy,” the official mascot of Efficiency Smart, will be at the office on both days, and there were be a light demonstration of new CFL bulbs versus incandescent bulbs.
Bute also reported there were less than 40 shut-offs in July, out of 234 notices sent out. He credited the help of Ohio Heartland Community Action’s Summer Crisis Program, which assisted 38 customers with utility bills.
As of Aug. 4, 664 customers have signed up for online bill pay. It was offered to customers beginning in May and is available through the City of Galion website.