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The city of Corvallis is implementing a new billing system that will affect customers’ city services bills.

The new system goes live June 17, although Finance Department officials have twice inserted information on the new program in customers’ monthly bills.

The city services bill pays for water, stormwater, wastewater, transit service, urban forestry and street maintenance on the city services bill. Residential, commercial and retail customers all pay the bill, as well as nonprofits such as churches, Samaritan Health Services, the Corvallis School District and Oregon State University. The bill does not include utilities such as gas or electricity.

The key difference in the bill is that the new version itemizes how much a customer is paying for each of the services. The previous model did not.

“If someone wanted that level of detail before they would have had to call and ask,” said Neil Knight, risk manager for the city.

Also, customers who currently log onto the city’s website to pay their bill with a credit card will have to contact the city to arrange for a new account number and to re-enter their credit card.

Those who currently are mailed bills do not have to take action. The new account number will be added. Also, no action is necessary for customers who pay electronically via a transfer from a checking account.

That electronic option is the one city officials recommend, Finance Director Nancy Brewer said, “because it is more sustainable.”

Paper bills will now be sent in reusable envelopes, which cuts down on the amount of trash entering the waste stream. An electronic exchange, obviously, entirely eliminates the waste issue. Also, Knight said, the new software will enable more electronic records storage, which will reduce paper waste and storage in the Finance Department.

The changeover comes during OSU move-out, the busiest time of the year for the department. Employees sometimes handle hundreds of calls per day on the city services bill, particularly those in which a lease is controlled by a student or students.

Bills for single-family rentals go to the tenants. But for a triplex with one meter the landlord or property manager must be the customer of record.

Anticipating a larger than normal volume of calls in the next few weeks, the Finance Department is doubling the number of customer service representatives it will have on hand from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

City services bills will be going up July 1 when a new public safety fee is added. The fee was approved unanimously by the Corvallis City Council in November. The council was not required to refer the matter to voters.

The fee will pay for 19 additional hires for the Corvallis Police Department and six more in the Corvallis Fire Department. The Police Department hires are aimed to making the department more proactive and able to engage in more community policing. The hires also will allow the department to eliminate 12-hour shifts for officers.

The fire staffers will allow the department to have both ambulance and fire crews at station two on Southwest 35th Street and at station three on Northwest Circle Boulevard. Currently the two stations operate on an either/or basis. If a fire call comes in when the crew is out on a medical call, another station has to assist with the fire.

The new fee will add $17.31 to the average monthly residential bill, $121.17 for a grocery store, about $3,500 for Samaritan Health Services and more than $35,000 per month for Oregon State University. Nonprofits such as Samaritan, OSU and the Corvallis School District are not charged the property taxes that pay for most city services.

The addition of the public safety fee, which will raise approximately $4.4 million per year, is part of a “three-legged stool” of city revenue measures. The plan came together after information was gathered in 22 meetings in 2015 and 2016 of a sustainable budget task force.

The second piece, Measure 2-123, a renewal and expansion of the city’s local option property tax levy, was approved May 21 by city voters. It will raise about $29 million during its five-year run.

The third piece, a 911 countywide emergency services taxing district, goes before the voters in November. The current dispatch center has a budget that pays for 17 employees. The new district, if approved, would pay for 24 dispatchers and four supervisors. The new district would raise $3.7 million countywide (the levy and the public safety fee are assessed only to Corvallis residents). The aim of the new district is to improve response times.

 

 

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Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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