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Town Talk: Utility budget billing

Each year New Ulm Public Utilities offers its customers the option to participate in the budget billing program, also known as average monthly payment (AMP). The budget program allows a customer to pay a flat amount for utilities services for 11 months each year. The 12th month then becomes the settling month in which any excess is applied to an account or a shortage is due.

To calculate a customer’s monthly budget amount, the utility bills for the most recent 12 months are totaled and divided by 11. If a customer has an excess balance from the previous budget cycle the amount is deducted from the 12-month total before the 11-month division. This results in a reduced monthly payment amount. Participants pay this amount each month for utility usage in April through February. For each month that the actual bill is less than the budget amount the difference is set aside in the account to build the excess. If the actual bill is greater than the budget amount the difference is deducted from the excess balance.

In a perfect world, participating customers would have an excess balance at the end of 11 months equal to the actual bill for the 12th month and have no bill for March usage. However, actual bills have many volatile aspects, such as weather, market prices, and customer usage. These factors are considered each year when new budget amounts are set and can create a few different scenarios for each customer during the settling month of the program.

Best case scenario, a customer is left with an excess balance. That balance is applied to the actual bill for March. If the actual bill is greater than the amount of the excess the customer may have a small payment due. If the excess is larger than the bill a customer can choose to receive a refund or let the balance be applied to the subsequent months bills until it is exhausted.

Worst case scenario a customer could be left with a shortage at the end of 11 months if the actual bills have exceeded the budget amount for all or most of the year. In this case the shortage and the actual March usage bills are due in full.

The budget billing program gives customers the ability to know what their bill is each month and avoid the volatility created by the seasons. Customers can monitor their excess or shortage balances each month by looking at their billing statements or logging into their account at www.municipalonlinepayments.com/newulmmn.

The budget bill cycle starts with April usage (May bills) each year but a resident can start at any time. Staff can help you to decide if your chosen starting month makes sense or if you should wait until the new budget year starts. To qualify for the program your utility account must be in good standing. Once you start the program you are automatically enrolled each year unless you notify the Finance Office. You can withdraw from the program at any time. Please contact the Finance Office at (507)359-8259 with any questions regarding the budget billing program.

Utility payments can be made through the mail, using the drop box in the City Hall parking lot, at Hy-Vee’s customer service counter, online, in person or by phone. The New Ulm Public Utilities accepts cash, check, money order, and credit or debit cards. Credit or debit card payments can be made at City Hall, online, or by phone. Phone payments can be made by calling 833-309-4326. Customers can also sign up for automatic ACH and the payment will be withdrawn from their checking or savings account each month on the due date.

Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.

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