Mike Cooke, City of Turlock Municipal Services Director gave a staff update to the City Council at a recent meeting regarding utility billing procedures, with information on the City’s Administrative Services Finance Division offering of online utility account management, information and bill-pay services.
According to Cooke, there are nearly 10,000 users, almost half of City of Turlock utility customers, who currently have online accounts. To sign up for an account, one would need an email address, utility account number, and last four digits of their Social Security Number.
Cooke explained the primary and new features of the online utility system.
There is the opportunity to make single payments with the system, as well as automatic monthly payments to be charged on the third, fifth or last of each month per the customer’s preference. There is also the option for customers to choose to receive paperless e-bills, where emails are sent with the same billing information that would normally be sent via the postal service; a hyperlink will also be included in all e-bills with the inserts normally included in paper bills, per the requests of customers.
Previously, Councilmember Amy Bublak raised concern that residents could not completely opt out of receiving paper bills in the mail. That issue has been fixed and customers can choose to receive paperless e-bills, rather than having the bills mailed.
Those who enroll in automatic monthly bill payments who also wish to receive e-bills would need to sign up for both services.
When an individual enrolls in e-bills, they will now only receive their bills via email; paper bills would not be sent via the postal service upon choosing the e-bill service. There is the option to receive both e-bills and printed bills, but it must be specifically requested to receive both forms now.
Additionally, landlords can link accounts associated with their various properties into one online pay account.
Included is a summary of previous years activity, by calendar year, with bills and payments. Additionally, there is a feature that shows water usage per household by month and day and year.
As automatic water rate increases are expected in the next two years, there is a chart to compare current and past usage fees per household as well as with those past, and how rates would be affected with current usage in the new rate schedule; Cooke said that certain users may pay more or less.
The Department is looking into potentially setting up an app called “Check” for individuals to pay utility bills on their smartphones, as well as an automatic-pay system where customers can have their monthly balances deducted straight from their bank account on the date they specify.
“It’s a work in progress, but it’s a feature well-used and we’re very proud of it,” said Cooke of the online system.
Councilmember Steven Nascimento asked whether the City had the ability to provide a usage comparison to neighbors like Turlock Irrigation District does.
Cooke said that the Department is looking at vendors for such services, but mentioned that they are expensive — estimating the cost to be around $100,000 per year. He explained that with further research, they would bring the item before the Council next year to see whether such program would would be worth the expense when considering return-on-investment, and impact on usage and conservation.
“Right now we can’t do that, but it’s something we are actively looking at,” said Cooke.
To create an online utility bill account with the City of Turlock, visit the section of the City’s website here.