The city of Pearland is discussing solutions on how to resolve a discrepancy between the water meter reading and billing cycle. Residents were billed on a different timeline than when their water meters were read, which has caused a deficit of nearly $6 million until the city collects the money.
City Council discussed different ways to correct a discrepancy caused by water usage and billing discrepancies at the Feb. 17 special meeting. The item will be discussed further at the Feb. 24 council meeting.
“We want to cover in full transparency what we know and what we’ve learned and what we plan to do,” City Manager Clay Pearson said.
The 28-day meter reading results in 13 cycles in a year. However, as the city had only sent out one bill a month and this new billing cycle was instituted in 2018, the city is roughly 60 days behind on billing citizens for meter usage.
In an attempt to begin resolving the situation, roughly 25% of customers received two billing statements from the city in February. For some residents, the second bill stated their balance was past due, though the residents had never missed a payment.
"It was very confusing to people who received it, and it shouldn't have occurred. It did," Deputy City Manager Jon Branson said.
Some residents showed up to the Feb. 17 meeting to speak about the incorrect language in the bill as well as their confusion with the situation.
“I am not quite sure I understand how you inadvertently bill somebody,” Pearland resident Denise Hewitt said.
Other residents asked the city to provide them with the amount of money still outstanding so that they can pay it immediately. This was an option that a few council members asked for as well.
Council discussed three different billing plans, and while it did not vote on one specific plan, it did provide guidance to the city for a plan that would switch the bills from a 28-day read cycle to a 32-day read cycle.
If passed, Branson said, this change would have the least impact on citizens and would be easy to execute. Under this plan, the city would expect to be caught up financially by early 2022.
Until the decision is made, council members have asked for more communication on the topic.
"I think we've failed until we have communicated exactly what has happened and how we're going to get there to rectify it," Council Member Tony Carbone said. "It took two years to get here, and we need to know how we are moving forward."