Payment options for your city utility bills

By Mike Barhorst - Contributing columnist

Basic utilities, such as water, sewer, stormwater and refuse collection are important services provided to you as a Sidney resident. While those services cannot be provided free of charge, we do everything we can to try to keep the costs as reasonable as possible.

In 2008, Sidney as well as every other community in the United States, began to weather the Great Recession. One of the cost saving moves that we made at that time was combining the staff of both the utility billing department and the income tax department into a single department named revenue collection.

The unification of the two departments allowed the city to cross train employees and provided a “one-stop shop” for residents and businesses. The move also provided internal efficiencies that saved tax dollars.

Since then, revenue collection bills and collects the majority of the city’s revenues. Those include income tax, utility bills, cemetery fees, swimming pool passes, the lodging tax, code enforcement fees and other generalized billing that comes from the city of Sidney.

Depending on customer preference or landlord requirements, our utility customers are either billed quarterly or monthly. The bill you receive details water consumption for the previous period, sewer charges based on water consumption, refuse service billed for a period in advance (either one month or three months, depending upon the billing frequency), and the EPA fee and stormwater charges (both based on a flat monthly amount for all residences and businesses). A late payment penalty of 5 percent is added if the bill is not paid by the due date on the invoice.

At the present time, the city has a total of 9,189 utility accounts with the bulk of those accounts (8,211) being classified as residential. The remaining 978 are either commercial, industrial or governmental.

Approximately 52 percent of all utility billing accounts are billed monthly with an average of 6,301 bills processed each month. This number has continued a steady upward trend as more customers opt for monthly billing.

Sidney customers have several utility bill payment options. Auto deduction from a checking or savings account is the most convenient for the consumer and the most efficient for the city of Sidney. The billed amount is deducted from your bank account on the invoice due date. If that date falls on a legal holiday or weekend, the payment will be deducted the next business day. Customers just need to complete a short authorization form and provide a voided check. Currently just 283 customers take advantage of the monthly auto pay program.

Of course, many banks now also offer free online banking and this too is a convenient method of payment. We ask that if using this form of payment, that your account number be listed in the memo or comments section of the check. Approximately 823 customers take advantage of online banking service to pay their Sidney utility bill.

The city also offers a self-serve online payment option via a secure link to our merchant processor on Customers will need their account number and customer ID to use the online service. A nice feature to this service is 24/7 access to your account which includes billing and payment

history. There is no fee charged to the consumer if paying by electronic check. Currently 570 customers choose this payment method. A $2.95 convenience fee is paid directly to the processor for those opting to pay by credit card. Approximately 526 utility customers use this payment method monthly.

Of course, customers may still mail or pay in person with cash, check or money order, as a majority of our customers presently do. Currently, 3,255 customers utilize this method of payment.

Credit cards are also accepted in person for payment. Currently, 839 customers pay using this method of payment.

No matter which payment option you chose, you will still receive a bill to verify amounts or usage. Whether that bill is the traditional paper bill or electronic noticed emailed directly to your in-box, the choice is yours.

There are several advantages to receiving your utility bill electronically. You have immediate, 24/7 secure access to your billing information with a 13 month history at your fingertips. It’s also an environmentally friendly and cost efficient option for the city as it reduces the cost of postage and necessary supplies. A monthly paper invoice averages $0.5216 per bill, with an electronic bill cost reduced to only $0.11 per e-bill.

Obviously, customers could save time by choosing an online option. Those options would also save labor costs on our end, ultimately saving consumers money.

If you are interested in making the switch to e-bill, simply visit and click on the “Receive your Utility Bill by email” link. You will be redirected to our SmartBill site where you will be able to create an account. This service continues to grow in popularity. In 2014, there were just 78 customers who chose to pay using that option. Today, there are 247.

No matter which payment method or billing option you choose, our goal is to provide the best possible service at reasonable rates to each of our customers.

If you have any questions about any of the payment or billing options, please contact the revenue collections department at 937-498-8114.

By Mike Barhorst

Contributing columnist

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.