May 17, 2006

Questions about the City of Monticello Utility Bills

The Taxpayer’s Watchdog Group frequently hears complaints about high utility bills from the City of Monticello residents. There has been some indication that not all monthly bills are being paid on a timely basis. This raises several questions.

What percentage of the City’s utility bills are delinquent?

What dollar figure of the City’s utility bills are past due?

What percentage of the past due bills are over 60 days old?

The City must pay its cost of the utilities whether customers pay on timeor not. How much does the City pay each month for gas and electric purchases? Who do they pay? Do they pay MEAG for both of these bills?

What is the total amount of the delinquent accounts subject to payment arrangements? Several people have said that they can’t pay their bills and that the City is allowing them to pay $50 a month on the bill. If the monthly bill is over $50 a month, how can they ever catch up?

Why are Monticello’s utilities so much higher than other area Cities’ utility bills? Talk with anyone out of Monticello and tell them what your utility bill was last month and they think you’re kidding. When you tell them you’re not kidding, the usual reply is, “How can anyone afford that much for utilities?”

Do the city council members and the Mayor receive bills as high as the “regular” citizen’s bills? It makes one wonder. If their bills were approaching $600, $800, and $1000 per month and more, the problem would be probably be looked at more closely. Citizens questioning their bills now get little more than "That’s just how it is. Pay up!"

The past few City audits have indicated that the City raises utility rates as money is needed for other projects. Projects that come to mind are the Get Ahead House and Funderburg Park. There seems to be no process or standard policy for raising utility rates. The policy seems to be guided by how much money the City needs to balance the budget.

Who can the citizens of Monticello turn to for relief? The PSC says they have no control over the rates. Citizens themselves shoulddemand an audit of the utilities—revenue, expenses, billings and payments; and anything else that affects the rates in Monticello. Citizen pressure and action can cause change! Without citizen payments, the revenue stream to the City would dry up.

The City Council should have some answers and some solutions after months of complaints. They should know how much money is coming in and where it’s going. They should be able to give an explanation to each and every person that asks about their utility bill. It will be up to the citizens to make the Council and Mayor accountable to them.

As Thomas Jefferson said, "When things get so far gone as to attract their notice, the citizens, when well informed, can be relied upon to set them right." NOW is that time!


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