Columbus City Utilities will recommend to the Columbus City Council that it acknowledge the exceptionally dry weather by crediting bills of people who watered their lawns and gardens in May.
The Utilities Board decided during a meeting Wednesday to ask that residents be given a break for watering their parched lawns during a month that typically is not covered by the annual, downward adjustment of bills from June through September.
It also decided it will find better ways to let residents know when the discounted months begin and end. Residents now are notified on invoices issued the month they take effect.
The City Council will hear the recommendation for discounting May during preliminary consideration July 2. Any decision that is finalized when the council meets two weeks later would be issued as credits during the three billing cycles between July and August.
Keith Reeves, the Columbus utilities director, said the office has received hundreds of phone calls from concerned customers who claim they were taken off guard and stuck with bills that were sometimes $100 or more than what they expected.
The Utilities Board adjusts rates annually for months when people water their lawns.
A city ordinance specifies that the sewer portion of combined water and sewer usage between June and September should be billed based on a customer’s average usage between February and April.
That gives customers a big break, because the city charges $6.67 per 1,000 gallons of water used to pay for sewer service. So using the figures for sewage calculations from earlier in the year drives the bills down. But combined sewer and water bills still go up a little during discounted months because water, which costs $1.61 per 1,000 gallons, always is based on the current usage.
Billing typically is for the month that precedes it. The water rate has held steady since 1992, and the sewer rate has held steady since 2009. Reeves said the average household uses 5,000 gallons of water a month.
Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown, who attended the Utility Board meeting, said she thinks the Utility Board made a decision that is sympathetic to taxpayers who watered during a month far dryer than most Mays. She also praised the board for deciding to look for ways to better communicate with customers so they know earlier when the discounted months happen.
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