Every water meter in the City of Riverbank has been replaced or will be replaced with new high tech meters that read volume. Due to these new meters the City of Riverbank will eventually be switching from flat rate billing to consumption billing. Residents will be charged on their specific household usage.
“The idea is at some point when all our technical components are in line, the city will move from what it is now a flat rate system to consumption billing so you pay for what you use,” explained Riverbank City Manager Sean Scully. “It has been a very complicated project and the council had discussed in the past the desire to look into eventually going to monthly billing versus every other month billing which is what we are doing now.”
The informational update was provided to the City Council at a recent meeting by Marisela Garcia, Assistant City Manager/Director of Finance and Anna Nicholas, Accounting Manager. The background on the issue listed on the agenda stated, ‘the Finance and Public Work Departments are currently engaged in a large-scale project relating to the implementation of water meters. This project has significantly impacted utility billing and customer service operations provided by the Finance department for the City. Due to issues with the transition from reading meters in Cubic Feet to Gallons, in November 2016 the City Council directed staff to bill utility customers only the base rate for water until such time that the project was completed.’
Scully explained that with consumption billing the city can more accurately track, account for and bill what people are actually using. With the flat rate billing all residents would pay the same amount whether one household used more water than the other. The new changes will require additional customer service needs along with education to the community.
“The idea is that if you want to use more (water) that is fine but you are going to pay for it and those that want to conserve, can conserve and pay less,” stated Scully. “It also helps us because even though we are not in a drought currently we fully expect there will be more, so our water situation in the valley is never going to be easier. So we are kind of making sure everyone in the community gets used to the concept of conserving, watching their bills every month so they know what they are using and what they are not.”
The new meters will allow the consumer knowledge of exactly how much water is being used and they will have the ability to access that information on a computer or even a smart phone app. There are approximately 7,000 bills mailed out a month and with flat rate billing, there are very few things to dispute.
“The discussion was more about getting consumption billing done and done right first, then exploring and if decided, implement monthly billing at a later date,” said Scully. “So that we can get both of them right and get the adjustment period done with the community and make sure that the education that we need to do is done.”
Part of the consumption billing process is complete and the city estimates that by the spring they should be ready to roll out the billing change. After all the kinks are worked out with the new consumption billing they will look to switch from bi-monthly utility billing to monthly billing.