The Sewerage & Water Board is going back to estimating customers' bills based on past usage, rather than using a flat rate, when a meter isn't read, officials announced on Wednesday.
The new plan, which will go into effect for bills starting on Monday, will mean that customers will be charged for the average of their previous four months of usage if their meter is not read in time to make it on their bill.
Currently, when a meter isn't read the customer's bill is calculated using a flat rate of 100 gallons a day. That's lower than the 171 gallons a day the residential customer uses and far less than the more than 1,500 gallons per day used by the average commercial customer, according to a report a S&WB consultant issued early this year.
That means some customers get "sticker shock" when their meters are finally read and the bills are adjusted to account for the actual usage, said Tiffany Julien, who oversees the utility's billing department.
If four months of bills are not available for the estimate - or fewer than two months of bills where a meter was actually read - the utility will use the average citywide rate for commercial or residential customers.