Council hears utility billing update

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — Sidney’s City Council heard an update on the city’s utility billing during its Monday evening workshop session.

Angie Wooten, revenue collection manager, gave her first presentation to City Council on the annual update of city’s revenue collections department since taking the positron after Karen Berning’s retirement.

The revenue collection department is responsible for billing and collecting the majority of the city’s revenues, Wooten explained. This includes:

• Income tax and utility billing;

• Miscellaneous billing, such as cemetery, lodging tax, code enforcement, police security contracts, fire and rescue invoices, street damages, pool rental, Inflow and Infiltration (I & I) invoices, etc.;

• Over the counter sales of trash bags, yard waste bags and stickers, public transit ride tokens, and during non-pandemic times, pre-season swimming pool passes.

Her report included payment options: AutoPay (customer provides bank account number); customer’s online banking, online via the city’s website; and payment by cash, check or money order in person, in the drop box; or by mail.

According to 2020 statistics, residents paid most often by cash, check or money order. The current average monthly cash usage is 2,819 out of a total of 7,210 for all the methods combined.

Online banking, payment via the city’s website and credit card payments at the counter or over the phone increased last year as the office was closed for several weeks to the public for in-person customer service due to the pandemic. Wooten said credit cards payments at the counter or by phone is the most costly for the city, at about $1.69 per transaction. The department still gets calls asking if the office is open for customers to come in, she noted.

Paying via the customer’s online banking is the least costly for the city, at .15 cents per transaction, Wooten’s report showed. Currently the city receives an average of 1,023 monthly payments from customer’s online banking through their own bank. Customers pay online on the city’s website using a secure link to the merchant processor. Paying in this method saves customers a stamp and avoids mail time issues.

Wooten reported the city receives 375 monthly payments via autopay, 985 credit card payments at the counter, and a total of 2,008 monthly payments by e-checks and credit cards through the city’s website at .

Customers also have the option to receive bills by email. Currently 247 customers receive e-bills instead of paper; 229 customers used e-billing in 2020, her report showed. This cuts the city’s costs for postage, paper bills and envelopes. Wooten pointed out the difference in the city’s cost of each paper bill at $0.5422 versus each e-bill at $0.1265.

E-billing is promoted on the city’s website main page, she said, on bill message area and in individual customer contacts.

The advantages of e-billing for customers includes immediate access to the bill, a 13-month history of their bills, and some customers appreciate the option of being “green.” Other than the cost savings, the other advantage for the city is that it can lead to an increase of online payments.

Wooten said people still prefer to receive paper bills. She hears customers say they already receive a lot of emails and spam and don’t want to worry about missing the bill among other numerous emails.

In other business, City Manager Mark Cundiff reviewed the August Planning Commission meeting agenda set for Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. There will be no Zoning Board of Appeals meeting in August. He also went over the prospective City Council agenda items for the next 30 days.

In final business, City Council went into an executive session to consider the employment of a public employee and to discuss possible investment or expenditure of public funds to be made in connection with an economic development project. No action was taken by council when the meeting resumed in the public forum.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.