Unpaid bills cost everyone
Lately, we have taken some heat for turning off power to residential meters during the winter months. We really don’t like turning anyone’s power off, but out of fairness to the membership, we have to do it.
It costs money to generate and distribute electricity. As a cooperative, members split the costs proportionately. If one member uses more electricity, he or she pays more. So what happens when members don’t pay their bills? The costs are absorbed by those who do pay their bills.
The policies and procedures this co-op has in place protect the membership. They exist to promote fairness.
A common misconception is that we turn off the power immediately. Here are the facts:
- Once a bill is issued, a member has 25 days to pay it. That’s a pretty good deal considering the product has already been consumed.
- If the bill is unpaid on day 26, a late fee is incurred. This is $2 on a bill up to $229. If the bill is more, the late fee increases incrementally based on a percentage.
- If still unpaid on day 42, the account is labeled delinquent. The member will receive a delinquent letter in the mail and a $5 fee is assessed.
- At day 49, a shut off notice is delivered to the residence telling the member exactly how much is owed and what day the power will be shut off if the balance is left unpaid. The member is charged $32 for this shut off notice.
- The electricity to that meter is shut off on day 57.
Sometimes the co-op never receives payment for service. Last year, GVEA wrote off a little more than $263,000 in unpaid bills – also known as bad debt – which is pretty comparable to previous years. If we had more lax procedures, that number would be far higher.
Divided among the membership, $263,000 works out to about $8 per member, per year. Think about it: that’s more than the average member contributes to the Good¢ents round up program each year ($6).
- 3,011 accounts went delinquent
- 1,827 shut off notices delivered
- 162 electric meters shut off