COLUMBIA — Paperless utility bills would save the city money, so staff in the finance department plan to begin a promotional campaign asking people to accept their monthly bills by e-mail.
Part of the Utility Customer Services Plan, the program began July 30 with 47 customers choosing to receive bills by e-mail. Those customers will no longer receive paper notifications in the mail, as part of an effort by the city to reduce costs and be environmentally friendly.
The staffs of the utility billing and information technology departments have worked together to ensure that those who receive paperless bills would get them on time. When customers sign up for electronic notification, they must complete a step that verifies their e-mail address.
The billing staff also receives notices when e-mails do not send properly. In those cases, the staff sends paper bills to the customers. Because bills are sent 20 days before they are due, customers still have sufficient time to pay.
City Finance Director Lori Fleming is hoping to expand the program. She outlined the plan during a City Council budget work session Thursday night.
“It’s part of a green initiative," Fleming said during an interview Friday. "We’re always looking for ways to be more efficient and keep costs down for our customers.”
Fleming said that if 10 percent of the estimated 55,000 to 60,000 utility customers switch, the city could save more than $35,000.
The utility billing staff plans to promote this plan starting in October, when the fiscal 2010 budget year begins. The department intends to use advertisements and radio spots, which would especially target college students and younger customers. Mayor Darwin Hindman said Thursday night that it would be a good idea to put notices of the e-mail option on paper utility bills as well.
Fleming said her department wants to increase the number of customers switching to paperless billing by 10 percent each year.