Water bills cost city $130,000 in postage
North Bay examines ways to increase customers on paperless billing
The city currently spends nearly $130,000 annually on postage within its water and sewer department because only about a third of its 16,000 users have signed up for paperless billing.
City politicians, however, hope to reduce that cost by encouraging more users to sign up. Exactly how to go about doing that was a key topic of discussion during a water and sewer operating budget meeting this week.
Some council members suggested the city make the move to transition all water users to paperless e-bills and implement a small postage fee – like many banks and utilities do – for those who choose to continue receiving bills in the mail.
But concerns were raised about imposing a fee on users who may not have access to the Internet or are not computer literate, particularity in light of an aging population.
Other members were more supportive of increasing an existing rebate for those who go paperless to $12, up from $5, in order to be more representative of the cost of purchasing stamps for a year’s worth of monthly bills.
Council, however, heard that an increase to the rebate would require adding funds to what’s already included in the operating budget.
Moving away from monthly billing to quarterly payments in order to help cut costs was also suggested. But most members opted against the move due to concerns some residents may have more difficulty budgeting for fewer, but larger, payments.
There also were concerns for users who do not monitor their usage online that household leaks could go undetected for longer periods.
Ultimately, members seemed to agree that postage should at least be broken out as a line item on water bills to help make users aware of the cost. And staff, which has already implemented a number of initiatives, will be looking for new methods of communicating the option of going paperless.
Visit https://secure.cityofnorthbay.ca/mynorthbay/ to register on the city eservices Portal and sign up for paperless billing.