City Addresses Higher Than Expected Monthly Bills for Some Water and Sewer Customers
The City’s 41,000 accounts have recently been transitioned to a monthly billing process to benefit customers
The City of Wilmington’s transition this summer to a revenue-neutral monthly billing system instead of quarterly billing for its 41,000 combined water, sewer and stormwater customers is causing some citizens to question their bills. The City moved to monthly billing so customers could better track their monthly water usage to manage household budgets, manage their payments, avoid delinquency, track water usage, and avoid huge bill spikes by identifying leaks faster. Furthermore, customers who use under 2,000 gallons of water a month (many of them elderly or single family households) were paying too much due to the City’s previously higher minimum water usage threshold of 2,667 gallons per month.
Wilmington’s water rates continue to be among the lowest in the region with customers paying less than a penny per gallon.
Wilmington’s Finance Director Patrick Carter said the policy changes were designed to create a more equitable billing system with fairer rates for those who use less water and with slightly higher charges for those who use more water, which Carter said will hopefully result in more water conservation. Carter said while customers are calling into question the bills for July and August as the City was in the middle of the monthly billing conversion, the upcoming water and sewer bill for September (which will be received by customers in October) will more accurately reflect their monthly bills moving forward.
Carter made the following points today to reassure customers that the billing system is fair:
- The summer transition process to monthly billing has been revenue-neutral with the City bringing in no additional revenue due to the fact that some customers are paying less monthly and some are paying more monthly for water they consume. A planned 4% rate increase, approved during the FY 2019 budget process and taking effect beginning this month, will bring in additional revenue to support the City’s Water and Sewer Fund.
- The monthly facilities fee (approximately $20 per month for the average City residential customer), which has been in place for decades, was intentionally not assessed in June. The fee was added back into customers’ August bills which caused those bills to be higher than July’s. The bill comparisons from July to August are part of the concerns expressed to the City by citizens.
- As part of the billing transition process this summer, some customers’ water meter readings were intentionally recorded for a month-and-a-half versus a month. This too would cause bills to appear inflated for this period of time only.
- The average residential water customer consumes about 4,000 gallons of water a month. Those average-usage City customers saw the water usage portion of their monthly bill increase by $3.00 during the billing conversion process this summer. Even with a previously approved 4% fee increase taking effect this month, the average customer will not see an increase because of a reduction of the facilities charge.
Carter today also offered the following breakdown of monthly water, sewer and stormwater bills which he said may be useful to citizens as they review their bills. He said a monthly bill is comprised of four sections including:
- a flat facilities fee of approximately $20 for the average City residential customers’ consumption of the first 2,000 gallons of water
- a water consumption fee for customers which will fluctuate depending on how many gallons of water is consumed
- a sewer fee which is 75% of the monthly water consumption charge
- a stormwater fee which is a flat fee based on the size of a property.
Carter said citizens who have questions about their bill should call the Department of Finance at 302.576.2620 and a representative will review with customers any of the charges that appear on their bills.
News and information from the Office of Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki
Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Communications
Mobile: (302) 420-7928
Paul Ford Jr.
Mobile: (302) 530-2171