Billing error costs city $260,000

A billing error within the city of Susanville’s utility system has brought with it a loss in revenue of about $260,000.

Finance manager for the city, Deborah Savage relayed the news to the Susanville City Council at the Dec. 19 meeting, saying, “When we were going through the records and auditing our utility system, we unfortunately discovered a billing error that was human caused.”

Savage told the council the error was that the city “did not change the non-irrigation rate to the irrigation rate” it charges per cubic-foot, during the summer season when usage is higher.

There is no plan for the city to attempt collecting the lost revenue from its customers, although, Interim City Administrator Dan Newton told the council, “We’ve done some analysis and it looks like we’ve got some salary savings we’ve got some other ideas we can bring at the mid-year budget for discussion and it will be tight, but it looks like we’ll be able to weather that particular incident without trying to go back and recuperate those lost revenues from our customers.”

Council member Brian Wilson agreed with not seeking repayments from customers, saying, “It would be a nightmare.”

Council member Brian Moore discussed the possibility of a voluntary payback by customers, saying the council could, admitting a mistake, ask willing customers to look at their past bills and provide appreciated help.

Mayor pro tem Joseph Franco joined the discussion, countering Moore’s consideration, “I look at it like this: We made a mistake, we learn from our mistakes, and let’s put in some safeguards to make sure that that doesn’t happen again. Let’s move forward.”

Council member Mendy Schuster asked Savage if there was an ability to automatically switch the rates over and also when the rates needed to be switched over. Savage replied that the department had to manually go into the system to change each one in April, for May’s billing.