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Newark finds $9,530.66 error in 1 water bill

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A recent review of Newark’s 10,382 water accounts has found 11 accounts that were billed incorrectly, with the most dramatic being one that will receive a $9,530.66 credit.

The highest debit is $1,108.99, and one of the six asked to pay up posted the news on Facebook, in a group called What’s New in Newark, DE.

The issue involves how the rates are structured. Newark has a minimum monthly charge, based on the size of the meter. It charges some customers by cubic feet, with one rate for the first 425, and another for everything above that. It charges some customers by the gallon, with one rate for the first 3,174, and another for everything above that.

And top it off, all those rates fall into two groups: an in-town rate for customers inside city limits and paying city taxes and a higher out-of-town rate for customers outside the city.

The city has 10,382 accounts: 8,143 in town, 2,239 out of town.

“Last month, our accountant discovered an account that was billed for in-town gallons rather than out-of-town gallons, which resulted in an internal review,” Jayme Gravell, the city’s chief communications officer, said today.

“This review revealed 11 accounts were billed incorrectly. Five accounts will receive a credit ranging from $623.21 to $9,530.66, and the six underbilled accounts received the letter shared on Facebook. The debits range from $124.29 to $1,108.99. The city is refunding more money than it will receive.”

“Anyone else get one of those?” Michael J. Emmons Jr. asked in posting the letter from the city’s payment and utility billing division. The letter referred to an incorrect bill code and says his current account balance is now $629.77.

“Our house literally sits a few feet away from the city boundary, so we are supposed to get charged a higher rate. Instead, we were paying the same rate as all city of Newark residents,” he wrote in an email. “This had apparently been the case since early 2017, when they established new rates.“

” I think it’s awful that the city did this. I think the most appropriate thing to do would be to correct my rate to the higher one, notify me of the change, but waive the uncollected extra amount since it was their fault, not mine,” he continued.

“We’re sympathetic to the customer’s frustration and will work with him to find a suitable resolution,” Gravell said.

Emmons’ notification from the city says his billing was retroactively adjusted back for three years. That time frame is what the city code allows, Gravell said. The billing codes could have been wrong for longer, she added.

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