Utility ratepayers seeing city rebate

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net

By now, all Independence electric utility customers received the $193.82 credit to their bills – or at least part of that credit.

How it appears on customer’s bills, though, varies.

The utility credit, approved by the City Council in January and applied to all accounts Feb. 2, used $11.2 million from Power and Light’s cash reserves. The $193.82 resulted from dividing those reserves evenly among more than 56,000 customers. The credit only applied to electric customers, not those who receive a bill just for water and sewer

For the utility customers who use level pay – that is, a bill based on average use over the previous 12 months – the credit was applied to the year-long balance that is subsequently divided to determine the level pay amount. 

As Water Department Director Dan Montgomery explained, since level-pay payments virtually always differ from the amount a customer would have been billed based on usage – sometimes more, sometimes less, often depending on the season – those customers all will realize the credit differently. The credit gets reconciled 10 percent at a time in the monthly calculations, so on the average a level-pay customer sees $19.38 less on their bill than they would have without the IPL credit, just rarely that exact amount.

In the end, level-pay customers receive the same $193 credit, Montgomery said, it’s that the credit complicated the behind-the-scenes math.

“The billing system isn’t used to a credit like that,” he said.

The utility credit came after the city had to delay producing and sending out bills as a precaution following an apparent ransomware attack late last year. That led to bills in February for December and January, covering 60 to 75 days of usage depending on the time between reads. As such, the credit perhaps eased some cases of sticker shock. 

Another source of confusion for some customers occurred because the city has 20 different billing cycles to spread out the billing work. For some customers, their bill went out before the credit was applied, but when they checked it online and saw the credit had been applied, they paid based on that. Again, in the end the math works out, Montgomery emphasized.

“We had to pick a day,” he said of when the city applied the credit. “It hits people the same but affects them differently.”

With pandemic and earlier billing issues, the city has waived late fees until further notice, and utility shutoffs for nonpayment will not resume until at least April 1.