A bill introduced tonight in the City Council, scheduled for hearing tomorrow at 10 a.m. in City Hall, would pave the way for monthly billing of water and sewer customers beginning this fall.
Part of the new "BaltiMeter Initiative," which has installed electronic water meters in city and county residences, the monthly bills will provide "better household budgeting" for city residents, according to a memo from Public Works Director Rudolph Chow. (The bill, with a PDF link to Chow's memo, is here).
Water bills have been quarterly in most jurisdictions for decades. Some private water providers have been going to monthly bills with the idea that it will help customers on fixed incomes manage their water use and budgeting more conveniently.
The grace period for late payment would be reduced to 20 days, from 30, "in order to avoid having balances and penalties carried forward on subsequent bills," Chow's memo says. The late fee will be reduced from the current 5 percent to 1.64 percent. On a three-month basis, it's about the same.
The new ordinance is needed because the current city law says that meters must be read four times per year. The bill would change that to "at least once per month."
Chow's memo, dated July 18, touts many supposed advantages. "With the switch to monthly billing, the Department of Public Works and our customers will no longer have to rely on an outdated billing system and an outdated billing format," he writes.
It goes on to say that county residents will continue to pay quarterly until further notice.