City Clerk gives update on billing system upgrades

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing, Inc.

City Clerk Emily Anderson recently gave the Monticello City Council an update on the billing system upgrades that she implemented at the start of the year.
On Tuesday, Aug. 6, Anderson reminded the council that the upgrades were intended to address two problems. The first, she said, was the cumbersome process for completion of the credit card payments, which involved entering data manually through a processing company and then completing a separate entry into the billing system.
The second, she said, involved the postcard billings, which took excessive time to print on the city's near obsolete dot-matrix style printer and then were further hampered by postal delivery delays or non deliveries.
On the first, Anderson reported that since launching the online portal early this year, more than 110 customers had registered for the online access to billing and the city had received several hundred payments directly online.
Additionally, she said, 23 customers had signed up for either the e-bill or text bill, and the numbers of online payments and e-bill registrations were increasing monthly.
On the postcard billings, Anderson said that she was still exploring several options for improving the format. One solution, she said, was to do offsite printing and mailing, which would cost about $28 more per bill but would eliminate the costs of pre-printed bill forms and printing supplies.
“Offsite bill printing can also deliver bills to a regional postal processing facility within 12 hours of receiving our data files,” Anderson said. “Currently, our bills are sent to Tallahassee and then sorted for delivery, often taking several days to make their way out of processing. We have found that the sooner the bills are received, the more likely they are to be timely paid.”
Another options under consideration, Anderson said, entailed other in-house printing formats, but these would require new machinery.
“I will hopefully have a recommendation to you within the next two months,” she said.
The reason for the upgrades, as Anderson previously explained, was to make the city's utility billing system more efficient and in the process save time and money.
In her earlier discussion of the options for improving the billing system, Anderson offered two solutions, the first an i-web component and the second print and mail services, each of which could be implemented separately.
The i-web component, she said, would establish an online presence that would allow customers to track bills and usage, e-bill, pay bills by credit or debit card, e-check (not available previously) or pay-by-phone to a separate phone number. Which options, she said, would save much phone call time.
She put the cost of the i-web component at a one-time license and setup fee of $1,900, plus an annual fee of $150 for support, and possibly another
$650 or so for potential minor computer upgrades for security purposes or the purchase of new reader for chip cards.
Insofar as the print and mail services, she put the current cost per bill (including printing, counting, sorting, delivery and postage, etc.), at $588 monthly. She put the cost of the offsite printing and mailing service, without return envelops, at $728 monthly; and with return envelop at $770 monthly.
On the plus side, Anderson said, the city would realize an additional savings by having the e-bill web presence, and the offsite printing and mailing would result in faster and earlier delivery of the bills.