Columbia updates utility bill software to make bills easier to read

COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia bought new billing software designed to make utility bills easier to read.

The new software cost the city $1 million and will give more detail about the utilities used in a billing period.

"In the past, we have been very limited on what sort of historical data we could give the customer, as well as transparency in exactly what they're being charged for," said Columbia Water and Light spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz.

Ratepayers will see graphs tracking water and electricity usage over the last 24 months.

According to Columbia's City Source, "There will also be a breakdown of charges for each service provided, including base charges, usage charges, taxes, fees, deposits and credits."

Kacprowicz said she hopes the graphs will allow ratepayers to be more informed about their utility consumption.

"So for instance, if you see something shoot way up, like your water consumption, then that might mean you have something like a leak," she said.

City Source states the new system will be implemented this spring, but Kacprowicz said it will likely be in June. 

Columbia resident Hannah Stillman said it's hard to understand what she's paying for.

"I don't know how much electricity I'm actually using," Stillman said. "I know what I pay but I don't know why I pay the amount that I do because I don't know how much I actually use."

She said she might pay more attention to her utility usage if she knew how much she was paying for.

"I would think about what I'm actually using and I would probably be more conscious about the amount of electric that I'm using," Stillman said.

She said she thinks the new billing software will make it easier to track her utility usage month to month.

"I think it would help me," Stillman said. "It would probably only help me if was right there on the bill."

Kacprowicz said the current billing system has been in place since 1997.

"There's a lot of things with the old system that was eating up a lot of staff time," she said. "Not only will it streamline things for customers, but it will also streamline things for staff."

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