FERNDALE, Wash. — In preparation for Wednesday’s Ferndale City Council Committee meetings, a timeline has been provided by city staff that goes to explain what led up to erroneous utility billing amounts on the recent February and April invoices.
To summarize (the complete timeline document is provided below),
- modifications to the billing software were made to reflect the new rate system following the December 31, 2019 invoices being calculated and mailed
- Friday, February 28th, February invoices are mailed
- Friday, March 6th, February invoices were discovered to contain errors – the new sewer calculations were to be based on average water use during the previous year instead of actual water use during the billing period
- City staff were informed by the billing software company they should have checked a box in the software setup to enable the sewer averaging
- City staff, while acknowledging the missed step, pointed out there was another missed step that the billing software company did not inform them about
- The city and the billing software company exchange communications to determine the extent and amount of the errors
- City staff say the billing software company was not quick to respond on multiple occasions
- City developed their own means of calculating the mount of corrections due in the absence of one being provided by the billing software company
- On Wednesday, March 11th, City Finance Department staff informed “administration” of the February billing errors
- City provides billing software company with data to be used to implement corrections on the April bills
- Tests on the data by the billing software result in multiple errors – it isn’t until Tuesday, April 28th that a test is able to be run error-free
- A change to sewer charges is made on Thursday, April 30th, the billing date for the April invoices
- Tuesday, May 5th, Finance Department is made aware of balance forward amounts being added into the sewer charges instead appear as a separate line item on invoices for 328 customers
In explanation about why there was no communication to utility customers regarding the February errors, the document included in the council committee meeting packet went on to say,
On May 5th, city staff published an announcement on their website acknowledging the errors and added, “But the bigger mistake was not including an explanation in the bills of this adjustment.” At the time, city staff estimated 50% of their approximately 5,000 utility customers used more or less water during the February billing period than the prior year average and were subsequently charged more or less than they should have based on that usage.
The Finance & Administration Council Committee are scheduled to discuss the situation during their meeting at 9am on Wednesday, May 13th. Due to COVID-19 disease concerns, the meeting will be held online and can be attended by the public by clicking this link close to the start time or during the hour-long meeting. No software is needed since the meeting can be viewed via an internet browser and no login credentials are needed when viewing the meeting anonymously.
Timeline provided by city staff for the Finance & Administration Council Committee meeting:COF-explanation-for-2020-Feb-utility-billing-snafu-2020-05-11