GOVERNMENT Pearland City Council approves water billing plan, tier structure
OVERCOMING THE LAG The city of Pearland discussed in February a 60-day lag that occurred in its water billing cycles in 2018 when the city switched to a 28-day billing cycle. To overcome this, the city has switched to a 32-day meter- reading cycle.
her how much she owes. “How are you going to charge me for something that you can’t tell me how much I owe?,” Hewitt said. Council members said they understood there is both a policy issue and a trust issue at hand. The city has also updated policies so the same mistakes are not made again, Branson said. “I get it. That doesn’t mean we have gained any trust. We’ve still got billing issues in March. We’ve had issue after issue. Yes, we may get a policy issue in place, but we’ve got a bigger issue in utility billing,” Council
BY HALEY MORRISON
and a roughly $6 million gap in revenue for the city was created. The 32/30 billing cycle would resolve the fi nancial issue by early 2023, sta ff said. Some council members asked about the possibility of allowing interested residents to pay o ff their balance early, as the city is roughly 60 days behind in collecting bills. While Branson said he
Pearland City Council approved a new tier structure for water billing at its April 13 regular meeting. The tier structure enables city sta ff to implement the new 32/30 reading and billing cycle, Deputy City Man- ager Jon Branson said at the meeting. The plan began April 25.
Feb. 17 Council fi rst discusses water billing and meter lag discrepancy April 13 The City Council approves a new tier system for billing, enabling
Member Tony Carbone said. Council Mem- ber Gary Moore requested an audit of the system used in utility billing at the meeting. Other
“I AM IN FAVOR [ OF ] THE 32 / 30 PLAN, BUT I THINKWE NEED TO AUDIT THE SYSTEM.”
WHAT IS 32 / 30?
believes this option may be confusing to present to residents, sta ff will implement it as an option once the new AMI meters are installed. Branson esti-
The 32/30 plan allows the city to read water meters every 32 days and bill
sta ff to implement the 32/30 reading and billing system April 25 The start of the 32/30 billing system
The 32/30 system was presented by sta ff and chosen by council in an attempt to rectify a 60-day lag in utility billing fi rst discussed by council in February. The new system will read meters on a 32-day cycle and bill residents every 30 days. Because the city had previously been reading water bills on a 28-day cycle, there was concern that moving to a 32-day read cycle would cause people to move into a higher usage tier, therefore charging residents more. The goal of the new tier system is to keep that from happening, city sta ff said at the April 13 meeting. The lag occurred after the city switched to a 28-day read cycle in 2018. Because of the lag, some citizens received two bills in a month, residents for water every 30 days. This plan is the city’s solution for the $6 million the city is behind on collecting from water bills. Pearland will collect the $6 million by early 2023 under the new plan, city o ffi cials said.
GARY MOORE, PEARLAND CITY COUNCIL MEMBER
members agreed and requested the city have an outside source conduct an investigation of the utility billing processes and systems. “I am in favor [of] the 32/30 plan, but I think we need to audit the system,” Moore said. “I don’t feel comfortable that the system is working for us.” The city has not agreed to an audit at a council meeting; at the April 20 meeting, council discussed bringing on a water billing consultant in executive session, Carbone said. The 32/30 plan passed, with Moore and Carbone voting against. “If you can’t understand the prob- lem with reading a meter 13 times in a year and billing me 12, I can’t trust you with hundreds of millions of dollars,” Davis said. The information in this article was accurate as of press time, May 8.
mated people could know balances by early July at the April 13 meeting. Until then, none of the residents know what they owe. However, some have requested the city tell them so they can pay the balance o ff at once, instead of having the amount added to their bills incrementally over the next two years. Jimmy Davis is one of the residents who requested to know his balance early. Davis has also been vocal about council not passing a new plan until an audit of the system is done, as he believes residents have been in the dark about the de fi cit. “This has been quite the jigsaw puzzle. We are still missing a lot of pieces and they still won’t give them to us, unfortunately,” Davis said. Denise Hewitt is another resident who, like Davis, has expressed concern because the city cannot tell
The city will have paid o ff the $6 million lag
DATE TOKNOW when the de fi cit will be paid o ff EARLY 2023 NUMBER TOKNOW the amount the city of Pearland needs to collect in water bills $6MILLION
SOURCE: CITY OF PEARLAND / COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
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PEARLAND - FRIENDSWOOD EDITION • MAY 2020
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