Penticton council keeps $1 fee for paper utility bills | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton council keeps $1 fee for paper utility bills

Penticton City Council pondered the problem of who should pay for the city's cost to dispense paper utility bills at yesterday's regular council meeting, Jan. 8, 2019.
January 09, 2019 - 5:30 PM

PENTICTON - City Council wrestled with the issue of how to deal with the $1.15 cost of mailing utility bills to customers, but the majority agreed to continue the practice.

Currently city utility customers are charged $1 if they wish to receive a paper bill, otherwise the city issues e-bills. It’s a small price for individual customers to pay, but costs to the city to provide the service for free is significant.

Revenue supervisor Amber Coates told council printing and mailing of bills for 67 per cent of the city’s clients is estimated to cost $161,000 annually.

The city currently charges $1.00 to issue a paper bill, recovering $140,000 of the total cost of the service. The rest of the cost is funded through the general municipal tax rate.

Coates said 37 customers felt strongly enough about the cost to make their concerns known to the city, making up 0.001 per cent of the city’s total accounts.

Staff were seeking council’s approval to maintain the $1 charge for paper bills, in addition to directing staff to continue promoting and educating city residents about e-billing services.

Coun. Jake Kimberley called it a cost recovery for the city that unfortunately, some citizens weren’t privy to. He called it a “minimal fee” for the time it takes staff to put out the bills, saying the only way to operate was to try and recover those costs.

Coun. Katie Robinson was originally against charging the fee, noting the city's high proportion of seniors, but changed her mind after seeking opinions from other council members.

Coun. Judy Sentes said she shared seniors’ concerns, but said the city provided options to those without computers, favouring the staff recommendation to maintain the charge.

Coun. Frank Regehr said he would have a hard time voting against the recommendation noting the significant dollars at stake, comments echoed by Coun. Julius Bloomfield who said he would vote to keep the policy in place for now.

“I don’t like the idea of any council or government nickel and diming their taxpayers to death,” said Mayor John Vassilaki.

“I believe that has to stop, it should have stopped a long time ago. I also believe that since we have a utility that makes an exorbitant amount of profit, and it subsidizes various other projects in our budget with capital and other budgetary items it gives money to, I believe because of those profits, that’s a cost of doing business and it should be paid out of the profits that come from those three utilities that we have,” he said.

The staff motion carried, with the mayor the only one on council opposed.

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