The New Castle County Department of Finance has finished a thorough analysis of residential county sewer bills related to Artesian water bills. The analysis was prompted by the county auditor's review after Artesian changed from quarterly billing to monthly billing in April 2012, under the previous administration.
The Department of Finance is now working with the county auditor to discuss the most appropriate accounting methodology to issue credits and/or refunds to sewer users.
For sewer billing, the county normally uses four quarterly statements from the water companies as the inputs for a computer program to bill the estimated 65,000 sewer customers, based on each customer's estimated water usage.
"For all sewer bills, we throw out the two highest quarterly water bills, take the two lowest and add them together, multiply by two, and that is the 'estimate of consumption' for the customer for sewer bills," said Jim McDonald, New Castle County deputy chief administrative officer.
Residential customers are billed for sewage based on their lowest two quarters of water usage.
However, now that Artesian switched to monthly billing, the computer program will have to be tweaked to calculate sewer bills for Artesian water customers – turning monthly estimates into quarterly estimates.
"The difficulty we had is writing a program and applying it to this data," said McDonald on Wednesday. "We're going to load that and run it over the weekend and let it recalculate the bills."
McDonald said this is a one-time aberration.
"Nobody got billed for consumption they didn't use," he said. "The program's already taking the highest periods of water consumption and throwing them out. The formula has worked very well for 34 years."
So, what can county sewer customers expect on their next bill?
"You may not see a big swing in bills," said McDonald. "It depends on the net result when we go through and recalculate the bills based on the monthly data. Our main concern is to make sure customers are treated fairly. If anyone else goes to monthly billing, we'll be ready for it."
For customers who are due credits, those adjustments are scheduled to begin on Oct. 1.