By Jennifer Stanko
Differences in opinion on whether Kyle has an issue with its utility billing system was the crux of a lengthy back-and-forth discussion on the Kyle City Council dais Nov. 17.
But proposed changes to Kyle’s utility billing system that were presented to council could make it faster and easier for residents to pay their bill.
During the city council meeting, council member Daphne Tenorio addressed to the Director of Finance complaints she received from many irritated citizens regarding long waiting lines and telephone hold times when dealing with the Kyle utility billing office.
Kyle currently has only one utility billing cycle, which overwhelms the department on the payment due date. While the customer accounts increased 23 percent between 2012 and 2013, staffing decreased by 20 percent. The office is currently staffed with 3 clerks and one supervisor.
“I personally went into the utility billing office on the billing due date and people were lined up all the way down the hall.” Tenorio said to Kyle’s Director of Finance Perwez Moheet.
Moheet acknowledged Tenorio’s concern, and said the city understands there are issues.
“We do have limitations in manpower and a system that we have currently outgrown,” Moheet said. “We know the challenges and have prepared solutions to make it an easier engagement.”
Moheet prepared a presentation outlining some of the proposed changes to include hiring more staff, a new telephone system and additional payment drop boxes around the city. Other proposed changes include ability to make touch tone payments, a payment kiosk at city hall, an updated billing system and even additional billing cycles.
To give you an idea of the amount of work generated by the utility billing office, in October alone, 10,750 bills were mailed out, and $1,453,897 in revenue was collected.
“We are not saying that the job is not getting done, it is just the growth is tremendous and it is hard to stay on top of it,” council member Diane Hervol said.
Council member Arabie countered Tenorio and Hervol’s claims by saying he was unaware of any issues.
“I was unaware there was an issue. I think we do an efficient job with the manpower and budget that you have now,” Arabie said on the dais. “I do not think that there are many people complaining.”
Council member David Wilson said he has not received complaints on quality of service.
“I have only received complaints that bills are too high, nothing about the quality of service provided,” Wilson said. “It is hard for me to criticize the utility department because they are doing the best they can.”
When Tenorio asked Moheet why shortcomings in staffing and resources was not brought to council’s attention sooner, he said the city had other issues to prioritize.
“There are many other obligations we have to consider, such as police and emergency services and we must prioritize the funds.”
There are currently 11 different ways to pay utility bills. Some of these include payment by phone, online, via a drop box at city hall, bill pay services, walk in and drop off.
Citizens can also pay their bills via drive thru at city hall, and even at HEB in Kyle.