By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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City staff members say the changes come after numerous complaints from residents about the billing method the city currently uses.
The problem: The city's billing period is 28 days long, while utility customers have 30 days to pay their bills.
This means customers can see an amount on their utility bill listed as “balance forward,” even though they have paid the full amount, if they paid after the billing cycle ended, City Chief Financial Officer Byron Olson said,
“People read it as being past due and go, 'Oh, I paid my bill,'” Olson said Wednesday.
“I deal with it weekly,” City Customer Service Manager Rick Hostetler told Utility Advisory Committee members during their Tuesday meeting.
“Customers are quite upset that this happens.”
Hostetler proposed shortening the time customers have to 25 days, which he said would eliminate paid amounts showing up as balance forward on the next month's bill.
Committee members unanimously recommended the change to the City Council, which will consider it at Tuesday's meeting.
The meeting will start at 6 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St.
If approved, the change would go into effect for the first billing cycle in July.
Customers would have a two-month grace period in which no interest would be charged if bills are past due so they can get used to the new billing timeline, Olson said.
“During the transition, we want a period of time to work with the customers,” he said.
Hostetler said utility bills due dates across the North Olympic Peninsula range from 10 to 25 days from the billing date.
In supporting the change, City Councilman Dan Gase, who also sits on the Utility Advisory Committee, said the 30-day period has been generous but that shortening it is an easy way to do away with a great deal of customer frustration.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.