(Kim Siever photo/Wikimedia)

Harrison utilities move to annual billing

Non-metered clients will now be billed once a year, with payments due in September

Harrison residents will now only get one utility bill a year, after council narrowly voted to approve a change to its billing format Monday (Aug. 12).

Right now, Harrison residents receive a quarterly bill for their water, sewer and garbage fees. According to financial officer Tracey Jones, that resulted in the village printing, mailing and processing more than 1,250 utility bills four times a year.

“We would not be sending out almost 5,000 pieces of paper a year, with the incurrent costs and efficiencies,” she said about the annual cycle. “That’s the purpose of it.”

In addition to the cost savings for the village, an annual billing cycle would also allow travelling residents to keep better track of their finances.

“We have senior residents who like to travel, and they were the ones that were indicating it was a challenge to track four times a year,” she said.

Residents will still be able to pay for their utility bills in the same way they did before: cash, cheque, debit and online payments, as well as a pre-authorized debit program that withdraws a fixed monthly amount from their bank account.

RELATED: Prepayment an option at Village

Jones also recommended that council no longer allow post-dated cheques to be accepted as payment for utility bills.

“We received cheques actually today that were not dated, not filled in, were blank signed cheques, and we were asked to keep them and fill them in at our will,” she said. “These are some of the things we’re being challenged with. We’re being asked to store these cheques on behalf of these owners and it’s starting to become quite a liability.”

She said staff have run into issues where a cheque doesn’t get processed on time, and the resident said it was the village’s responsibility to tell the owner if the cheque doesn’t go through when they planned.

“We do our best if something comes back from a bank, but if it incurs penalties because they wanted until the last day to pay it, it’s very difficult,” she said. “We’ve even had people suggest we should have gone to their homes to find them when this occurred.”

While mayor Leo Facio and councillor Michie Vidal voted to get rid of post-dated cheques as an option, councillors Samantha Piper, Ray Hooper and Gerry Palmer all voted in favour of keeping them.

The decision to move the utility billing to an annual system was a narrow one, with Hooper and Piper in favour of maintaining the current quarterly system to make it less likely that residents will feel they have to pay one lump sum. Vidal and Palmer voted in favour of the annual system, with Facio being the tie-breaker in favour of annual billing.

Only non-metered customers will move to the annual billing cycle.

The village will send out notifications on the change in the next two utility bills. Starting in 2020, bills will be sent out at the end of July, and payments will be due Sept. 15.


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