A new initiative to redesign Turlock Irrigation District electric bills and outsource their printing has saved the district $400,000, officials said Tuesday.
The initiative saw TID staff develop a new, more detailed bill, hiring an outside firm to print and mail bills. It was the first redesign of district billing statements since 1999.
Customers have appreciated many of the changes, said TID Customer Service Department Manager Nancy Folly, which clarify certain district processes and charges. For example, delinquent notices now clearly state when customers must pay, and how much it would cost to reconnect service.
“I didn't really expect to get any positive feedback on delinquent notices, but I think we have,” said TID Assistant General Manager of Financial Services Joe Malaski.
But some changes have caused issues, like an account number font which some find too small to read.
For other consumers, the added information – detailing the breakdown of billing charges by usage tier and environmental charge – was confusing. Some customers mistakenly believed they were being billed twice, while others questioned why an environmental rate – charged to each customer to reflect TID's costs of meeting state mandates to source energy from renewable resources – was being charged when they hadn't signed up for “green” energy.
“I think it will be an educational process,” Folly said.
On that front, TID will include a pamphlet detailing how to read district bills with every customer's February bill.
The biggest change for most consumers has been in the change in envelopes. TID bills traditionally came in craft paper brown envelopes, with late bills in pink envelopes; now, as a cost-savings measure, all bills arrive in white envelopes.
Folly said she has received calls from people who were taken aback by the change.
“People say, 'I don'-t even open my bill from TID,'” Folly said. “'I just know that if it's pink, I have to pay it.'”
The white envelopes are here to stay. But a total of 19 changes will be made to the new bill in the coming months, from aesthetic shifts to added clarification on some points, including an explanation of the environmental charge.
The billing statement will likely continue to evolve over the months and years to come, though TID board members already view the new bill as a major improvement.
“From my perspective, it was a masterpiece,” said TID Board of Directors President Michael Frantz. “I thought it was clear, and concise, and so much easier to understand than the old one.”
Despite a few hiccups, the project has been a success, staff said.
The redesign was so successful, in fact, that TID staff is now working on a process to redesign irrigation water bills. But that project is still in it's earliest stages, Malaski said.
“We're not really ready to talk about it yet,” Malaski said.