FAQ: Utility Bill Holiday
The City of Westerville this week approved a payment holiday for all residential and business utility accounts for bills due on April 15, 2020. Charges for services for the month of March are posted with a zero balance. If you are past-due on your account, February charges are still due for payment. If you have questions, please call the Utility Billing office at (614) 901-6430.
Based on economic uncertainties associated with the spread of COVID-19, the City enacted this relief program to waive fees for the current month’s payment of electric, water, sanitation and trash/recycling.
The intent is to provide real and immediate relief and financial aid to our residents and businesses (i.e. utility customers) who have been harmed by the effects of this public health crisis.
The City is encouraging paying-it-forward by making a donation to a Westerville-based nonprofit or charitable organization that can provide further assistance for food, housing, financial assistance or mental health counseling needs during these challenging times.
What does this mean for my utility bill?
Bills sent at the end of the month will show a “zero balance due” or will carry a similar message to customers. While the precise means by which the monthly bill will be modified is still being finalized, the effect will be that no payment will be required for bills normally due on April 15.
Do I have to repay this bill next month or later?
No. This action should not be considered a loan, or a deferral until a later date of the bill due for this period of time. It is a total and complete remission of the amounts due for those various utility services billed for by the City and otherwise due and payable on April 15. In other words, this is a true bill waiver.
I'm past due on my account. Will the payment holiday apply to my account as well?
Charges for services for the month of March are posted with a zero balance. If you are past-due on your account, February charges are still due for payment. If you have questions, please call the Utility Billing office at (614) 901-6430.
How is the City able to offer this waiver?
The fiscal impact of this bill waiver on all of these various utility enterprise funds of the City (Electric, Water, Sewer, and Refuse) in the aggregate is approximately $5.5 million.
Each of these funds have cash reserves as a matter of fiscal policy which is adopted for each of these funds. Those fiscal policies dictate how much we should carry in reserve in these funds to provide for sufficient operating cash to sustain these critical utility services. When we budget each year for the expenses of these utility enterprises, we look at our anticipated revenues and expenses (both operating and capital), and determine how we fund those expenses while maintaining compliance with our fiscal policy for each fund. Some years, rates for one or more of these utilities are increased to meet these needs, and some years they are not.
Finally, our utility fund fiscal policies do include a "rate stabilization" feature, that allows us to mitigate for circumstances such as these that might otherwise cause a more significant bump in a monthly bill.
What are the implications for rates? Will they go up later?
What the implication is for this April bill waiver is that when we prepare those budgets next time this coming fall, we will do our normal and customary evaluation of our revenues, expenses, and projected fund balances, and will make recommendations for adjustments accordingly. This review MAY find one or more of these funds in a condition requiring a rate adjustment higher than what otherwise would have been needed but for this billing holiday. However, the order of magnitude we are talking about will be slight, and any recovery period would be over the course of one or more years.
By way of example, if the City had already planned for, or otherwise needed, a 3.0% increase in water rates for 2021, we may have to increase that to 3.5% or 4.0% to ensure that fiscal policy is met for the Water Fund.
An increase of that magnitude is a few cents per month on a water charge. In fact, for the average residential customer, a 0.5% increase in water rates would cost about 17 cents per month.
What if I am on auto-pay? What happens?
There will be no deduction from your account on April 15.
Who do I contact if I need more information or have a specific utility bill question?
Contact the Utility Billing Office at (614) 901-6430 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What organizations can I help in Westerville?
These organizations include but are not limited to:
- Concord Counseling
- Neighborhood Bridges
- Westerville Area Resource Ministry (WARM)
- Westerville Caring & Sharing
- Westerville Helps