We are transitioning to Monthly Billing!
The Town of Elon is transitioning customer from bi-monthly to monthly billing starting on October 1, 2021.
Monthly billing is standard for most utilities and businesses, and better aligns with other monthly expenses. In addition, monthly billing provides more timely information about water use and more frequent opportunities to identify and repair household leaks that might otherwise go undetected.
What You Should Know
With monthly billing, water customers will receive 12 bills per year, instead of six.
Bills will be due monthly instead of bi-monthly. Check the bill for the due date.
If you use automatic bank drafts, your payments will automatically adjust. However, if you established recurring payments through your personal banking website, you will likely need to adjust the payment frequency.
During the transition period, some bi-monthly bills may reflect more than or fewer than 60 days of service, and some monthly bills may reflect more than or fewer than 30 days of service.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the Town of Elon moving to monthly billing?
Most communities have transitioned to monthly billing in the past. We are now able to offer this service due to the installation of digital meter readers. These meters provide better service for a number of reasons:
- Can provide daily flow totals, as well as an hourly breakdown
- Can provide indicators of leaks or other anomalies in water usage, saving residents money in the long run due to earlier detection
- Makes budgeting for utility payments easier by allowing for monthly totals, rather than bi-monthly totals
What are the benefits of monthly billing?
Benefits of monthly billing include:
Smaller, manageable payments.
More efficient household budgeting: Your water bill will now arrive at a similar frequency with most other utility bills such as gas and electric, making your monthly budget that much simpler.
Timely water use information: Monitoring your water use can help you understand consumption habits and manage water costs.
Detect possible water leaks quickly: With more timely information, you’ll easily notice if your water use is different from normal. This allows for the early detection and prompt repair of leaks, reducing the possibility of a high water bill.
Will I still be able to pay my bill online?
Yes, you will be able to view and pay your monthly bills online. Click here to pay online.
When was this decided? How come I didn’t know about it?
The initial discussions about monthly billing were in 2019, when the Town began implementing its new digital meter reading system. More recently, it was discussed at the Board’s retreat in February of 2021, as well as during the budget process of March to June 2021.
With the adoption of the budget in June, 2021, we began efforts to get the word out, as follows:
- July/August newsletter graphic mailed with July 1 utility bill
- July 1 – message on the utility bill statement
- July 19 – water bill webpage published to the Town’s website
- Weekly Facebook and Instagram postings started on July 21
- August 5 – Information postcard mailed to every user
- Detailed article in September/October newsletter is forthcoming
Why did my July bill have extra days in it? What changes can I expect to see on my bill?
A normal July 1st bill includes the months of April and May. In the future, the July 1st bill will include May 15 to June 15. To move our billing cycle to a monthly basis, it was necessary to send bills for additional days in July in order to get our schedule correct in the October bill. September’s bill will then cover from June 15 to August 15, and October’s bill will cover August 15 to September 15. The advantage to our customers was to bill as many days as possible under the pre-July rate.
Why are our rates going up as of July 1?
There are several factors that have led to the rate increase of 10% as of July 1.
- Burlington raised its rates by 1%. This is a pass-through rate increase, as Burlington bills us for each user as if that user was in Burlington. So, Elon residents contribute to the maintenance of Burlington’s infrastructure, as well as for the operation of the plants that send water to Elon and take our sewerage back. Elon’s rates must also provide funds for operating our own system, including personnel and collection costs, as well as maintaining our own infrastructure, including pipes, meters, and pump stations within our jurisdiction.
- We are funding a study this year to detect leaks into our sewer system. This $150,000 is being paid for above the normal budget amount. In the long term, this study will identify where we have groundwater and stormwater infiltrating into our system. These flows of clear groundwater are treated just as if they were routine sanitary sewerage flows, adding to every Elon utility user’s bill. Once the study is completed, we will begin the process of eliminating these inflows of water, which will reduce flows to Burlington’s treatment plant, and saving our system money.
- With the acquisition of the Travis Creek Pump station from Gibsonville, our purchase and sale of sanitary waste flows will change, with our costs increasing significantly, along with our revenues. However, our need to maintain adequate cash on hand will increase.
Will we have another rate increase next year?
Yes, unfortunately, there is another planned increase next year, as the cost of the Travis Creek Pump Station debt payments hit our budget. We are not certain of the total increase, due to the uncertainty of new users joining the system, increases from Burlington and actual flows between Gibsonville and Elon. With much of the cost of operating our water and sewer systems being relatively fixed, actual water usage in one year can also affect rates the following year.
How do we know what is being spent on water and sewer programs?
The approved budget is posted on the Town’s web page. During the budget process, which starts in late February, we post working copies of the budget for the public to see and evaluate. The Board holds at least three meetings during the budget process where residents are able to discuss budget specifics with the Board. And, at every meeting, the Board allows public comment.
You mentioned ‘cash on hand’. What is that exactly? What is your goal for ‘cash on hand’?
Cash on hand is the saving account for the water and sewer department. These funds would help sustain the system in case of a major disaster that would affect water usage. For instance, a pandemic or major flood where residents were unable to be home or if the University were forced to shut down for a period of time. This period of no, or significantly lower, water usage, could have drastic impacts on the water and sewer system if we had no reserves.
We don’t have a formal, stated policy for cash on hand. Many professionals advise for 12 months of cash on hand. Others recommend lower amounts. Our internal goal is to be close to 9 months of reserves.
Why can’t you just use the Town’s reserves?
Water and Sewer departments are required to be operated like businesses. They operate completely separate from the Town’s general fund budget, and cannot utilize funds raised by the municipal government, or that the government receives from the State. The water and sewer departments are entirely dependent on user fees.
Why doesn’t the University pay its share of the water/sewer bills?
Like every other user in Elon, the University does pays for its water and sewer. The same rates, and the same charges. It is worth noting that in the July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 fiscal year, total revenues for water and sewer were budgeted at about $3.7 million dollars, and the University paid nearly $1.5 million in water and sewer payments.
Where does the money for water and sewer go?
For the current fiscal year, which started on July 1, 2021, we have budgeted 8.25% for personnel and benefits, 4.1% for operations, 33.36% for capital, 50% for payments to other communities, and 4.5% for professional services. Dollar-wise, the breakdown is as follows:
Wages/Benefits $537,700 Operations $271,000 Capital $2,183,000 Charges $3,260,000 Services $291,500
Are you concerned that people who are late on water/sewer bills will continue to be late?
Yes, we are. We are hoping that people who may not have adequate cash flow to pay a large bill every other month, may be able to afford a smaller bill every month. We will be watching closely to see if that is the case. The last thing we want to see is people paying more in late fees in the future then they have in the past.
Why do we buy water from Burlington, and send them our sewerage?
Elon lacks a treatment plant to treat sanitary wastes, so we have long relied on Burlington to provide that service. In the late 1980s, Elon provided most of its own water through a system of wells. The balance of our water needs was addressed through a water purchase agreement with Burlington. As demand and regulatory requirements increased, the cost of supplying well water continued to escalate, and we gradually purchased additional water from Burlington. In 2008, we shut down the last of our wells and began purchasing all of our water from Burlington.
Burlington charges us the same rate as its residents. Why is that when we do not utilize their water lines or their water department?
You raise a good point. While we purchase treated water from Burlington, we pay a portion of Burlington’s overhead to provide water to its residents. In addition, we also have to pay for our overhead to maintain our water and sewer lines in Elon, as well as system meters and pump stations.
How many people work in utilities?
That is a hard question to answer, because everyone does multiple jobs. We have just created a new part-time position that is our only dedicated utility position. In addition, we charge ¼ of personnel costs from our Finance Office to utilities, and 50% of our public works staff to utilities, with the exception of one person who is dedicated to non-utility functions, and is paid from the General Fund, not the Water/Sewer Fund.
If I set up recurring payments (i.e. bill paid automatically from checking account), do I need to change anything?
If your recurring payments are set up through automatic bank drafts, you do not need to change anything – your payments will automatically adjust. However, if you established recurring payments through your personal banking website, you will likely need to adjust the payment per the monthly due date reflected on your bill.
How is the Town of Elon making sure customers are notified about the transition to monthly billing?
The Town of Elon is posting information on our website and social media, and reaching out to customers via the Town newsletter and messages on the bill statement.