Once every three months, that dreaded bill arrives! This post addresses a few details about the water and sewer billing process.
Bills are mailed on the last day of each quarter and payment is due one month later. Charges are for a three-month period but are often compared to monthly rates in other places. Salida’s rates actually remain relatively low in comparison to neighboring communities.
Paying a smaller amount each month is easier for many customers than paying an amount three times as much once every three months. However, nearly two-thirds of the respondents to a recent customer survey were opposed to monthly billing. We encourage customers to make monthly payments in advance of receiving their bill if this helps with budgeting household expenses.
Please be aware that we changed the payment remittance address if you use online bill pay through your bank and it was set up when we still had a post office box. Payments should now be mailed to our physical address of 448 E 1st Street, Suite 112 in Salida.
We encourage customers to sign up for electronic payment processing instead of mailing a payment. This option for paying water and sewer bills has been used by the City since 2009. Customers still receive a bill in the mail showing the amount of the charges. Once set up for ACH payments, customers never have to worry about mailing a check again. Customers must fill out an ACH Authorization Agreement. As we strive to operate more efficiently, ACH payments are one step in that direction. We can save hours of staff time now spent processing the checks that arrive in the mail, entering them in the billing system, creating the bank deposits and filing payment records.
Paperless billing is not currently available but is being considered with the next system implementation.
Starting last year, we began showing more detail on the bills for greater transparency about the rates. Previously, the service fee and usage charges were combined on one line, rather than shown on separate lines of the bill.
Rates include a flat service fee, intended to cover the fixed costs of operating the treatment plants. A water maintenance fee for residential customers is charged to cover costs incurred each year to maintain the distribution system throughout the city. Finally, usage charges apply based on the actual volume of water delivered to each customer as measured by the meter. With the recent rate increase, the volume of water included in the base rate was doubled from 3,000 to 6,000 gallons per quarter for residential customers. Commercial customers pay for all water used.
Fall and winter bills are based on the actual water meter reading both for water and sewer usage. For the spring and summer bills, residential customers are charged for sewer usage based on the amount of water used from October through March when little outside watering occurs. This billing practice is based on the assumption that essentially all water used during the fall and winter months is for household use that exits the property through the sewer system.
Commercial customers with property that requires irrigation in the summertime may fill our a request form and apply to the city for a credit on their sewer bill for the estimated usage charge that applies to water that does not enter the sewer system.
Late fees are assessed if the bill is not paid by the due date. If still unpaid after 45 days, customers receive a shut-off notice. Customers who find themselves in a position of being unable to pay can call the City to discuss their situation. Some local resources are available through the area council of governments, including financial planning / counseling and, possibly, a one-time financial aid grant. If your water is turned off, it is illegal for you or a plumber you hire to break the lock on the water meter and restore service.
Finally, we’re including some charts to show where the money goes. These figures are based on the 2012 budget. The City operates the water and sewer as an enterprise fund and sets rates each year to generate a sufficient amount of revenue to cover the costs to operate, maintain and, when necessary, to improve the system.