Q&A: Utility billing 101

August 6, 2019

Several questions have come up recently regarding how the City of Bartlesville charges for water, wastewater, meters and other City services, as well as fees and charges on monthly utility bills. Hopefully, the Q&A below will help answer some of those questions.

Why is my water bill higher this month than previous months?

The Bartlesville City Council voted in June 2015 to authorize rate increases for water and wastewater as well as incorporate monthly capital investment fees to support infrastructure needs for both systems for five consecutive years beginning in Fiscal Year 2016-17. In July, the fourth of five increases went into effect, increasing costs for Bartlesville utility users. However, if the change in your bill was significant, it is most likely due to changes in the amount of water that you used.

Why were rates increased?

Prior to the increases beginning in FY 2016-17, the last increase for water occurred in 2006, while wastewater rates were increased slightly in 2013. The increases, along with the capital investment fees, were necessary to continue to meet short-term and long-term costs associated with providing water not only to Bartlesville residents but also the City’s nine wholesale water customers, which includes several municipalities and rural water districts in Washington County as well as some Osage County rural water providers.

The increases reversed the City’s previous method of charging less for the more water used to charging more for more water used in an effort to encourage conservation. There is no per gallon charge for the first 2,000 gallons used. So households using fewer than 2,000 gallons (block 1) do not see a water consumption charge on their bill.

Households using more than 2,000 gallons per month are charged the following:

  • 2,000 to 10,000 gallons per month (block 2) pay $4.05 per thousand gallons
  • 10,000 to 25,000 gallons (block 3) pay $4.46 per thousand gallons
  • 25,000 to 50,000 gallons (block 4) pay $4.86
  • 50,000 or more gallons (block 5) pay $5.27

Industrial and large commercial accounts are billed a flat fee of $3.45 per thousand gallons because while the inclining scale is designed to encourage water conservation by assessing a higher fee for households that use more water than average, flat rates for businesses are necessary to encourage development.

Does water rate revenue pay for the new Smart Meters?

The City began installing Smart Meters in December 2012 and completed the installation in November 2013. The total cost of the Smart Meter conversion was $3.9 million. Funding was through a $500,000 grant and financing through a low interest load from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. Debt payments for the financing are through the City’s water rates. The loan will be paid off by 2028.

My water bill went up when I moved to Hillcrest Heights. When my husband called to inquire, I believe it had to do with the the fact that they had done work in that particular neighborhood and never billed anyone, so they were trying to make it up.

Rates are based on each household’s use. They do not vary based on location, no matter how much “work” is done in any given neighborhood.

I live in Hillcrest Heights and always have a very, very high bill.

Hillcrest Heights residents are not charged any more for service than anyone else. Charges are assessed equitably based on meter size and use. Nothing more.

I’ve heard there is a water meter base charge, a sewer base charge, sewer charge and wastewater investment fee for every bathroom in the home. Is that correct?

The majority of households have only one meter. (The exception to this is homes that have a separate sprinkler meter.) Meter base charges are based on the size of your meter, which is based on capacity, and are applied per household. Capital investment fees are applied per household as well. Rates are determined by use. How many bathrooms one has is not considered for any City of Bartlesville service — or even known, for that matter.

My water bill is more than double what it usually is. What can I do?

First, make sure you don’t have a past due amount showing on your bill. This is the No. 1 cause of very high utility bills. If that’s not the case, you could have a leak. Contact Utility Billing at 918.338.4224 for more information.

Is it normal for the city to just charge what they want?

The City does not randomly assess charges to individuals or households based on desire. Rates are set at public meetings by the City Council after considerable study. Citizens are encouraged to attend these meetings, which are held at City Hall, 401 S. Johnstone Ave., on the first Monday of every month. Special meetings are called as needed. For more information, see www.cityofbartlesville.org or call 918.338.4282.

If you have any questions about your utility bill, please contact Utility Billing at 918.338.4224 or on the first floor of City Hall, 401 S. Johnstone Ave.

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