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News > New utility billing in housing starts soon
New utility billing in housing starts soon

Posted 1/13/2011   Updated 1/13/2011 Email story   Print story

    


by Bekah Clark
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs


1/13/2011 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- In February, residents of Scott Air Force Base privatized housing will receive their first live bill for their January gas and electric usage.

This move follows nearly a year of mock bills being sent to Scott residents which reflected their electric and gas use and what it would have cost for the month. The mock bills were sent to residents to better prepare them for the change in the utility billing process.

While utility costs will continue to be a component of a servicemember's Basic Allowance for Housing, the amount of usage covered by BAH is now defined by a Utility Allowance for gas and electric usage based on that servicemember's floor plan.
Water, sewer, trash and recycling will still be covered in their entirety by the project.
The new utility billing affects all homes at Scott from those occupied by junior enlisted all the way through those occupied by the most senior of base leadership.

The change comes after a 1994 Presidential Executive Order to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent on military installations. Four years later, the Office of the Secretary of Defense ordered that servicemembers will be responsible to pay for the utilities they consume, encouraging base residents to be conscious of the energy they use.

"The concept of the project is to put the responsibility of energy consumption on the consumer themselves," said Paula Baker, Scott privatized housing property manager.
In 2000, Air Force policy was laid out to give a Utility Allowance that would be included in the price of rent. To determine a UA, property managers first monitored the utility usage in every fully-occupied home in each floor plan design over the course of at least one year to determine a monthly average for each specific floor plan. Once the average was determined, the base property manager added an additional 10 percent. The average utility usage plus the 10 percent makes up each floor plan's UA.

For example: If floor plan A's average utility usage was $100 each month, an additional $10 was added to create that floor plan's UA.

The rates of the individual utility providers are also factored into a floor plan's UA since the providers vary between housing areas. Providers vary based on which utility lines reach which area as well as some areas on base which receive services where the property manager can negotiate rates with the provider.

Additionally, any service fees charged by a provider are included in the UA.

UAs will be recomputed, validated and analyzed by the Air Force and approved by the wing commander annually.

UAs at Scott range from $98 to $392 based on the floor plan. The average UA at Scott is $178.

Since the UA is built into the cost of rent just as utilities were paid for by BAH under the previous program, there will be no out-of-pocket cost to base residents if they remain within their UA. A servicemember's BAH will not change with live billing.

Since UAs are based on a straight line average, meaning your average will remain the same each month throughout the year, there may be months where you exceed or use less than your UA.

Should residents exceed their UA by more than $50, they will be billed. If residents use less than their utility allowance by more than $50, they will be sent a refund check. If residents use more or less than their utility allowance by less than $50, the amount will roll until $50 is exceeded on either end.

For example: If in January a family exceeds their UA by $30, but in February uses less than their UA by $20, and then in March uses less than their UA by $60, they'll receive a refund check of $50 on their March bill. If the numbers had been in reverse, they would receive a bill for $50.

Residents have the option of paying bills incrementally or not receiving refunds, in which case the amount of your refund will be applied to current or future overages.

Data from other utility billing projects from other military installations show that 80 percent of base housing residents do not incur out-of-pocket costs over the course of the year.

"While a family may incur a cost a month here and a month there, the average family does not incur any out-of-pocket costs after the overages and refunds are given throughout the course of a year," said Ms. Baker.

All monthly utility statements, including bills and refund checks will come from Minol, an independent, third party billing company. Minol is an energy and utility expert and works with other military housing privatization projects for the Army and Navy, and provides third party utility billing for civilian housing organizations as well.

Each house's utility usage is monitored by meters which were installed on the houses during the privatization process. The meters are read electronically by Minol, as such residents will not see meter readers.

Should a resident have a bill they will pay Minol directly--not the energy provider. Residents can access accounts online at www.minolusa.com. The account number on your mock bill will remain the same once billing goes live. The website shows and explains payment methods and has energy conservation tips to help you remain within your UA.

For more information or if you have questions, call the Scott Housing Management Office at 746-4911.

Sample of UAs by unit type:
Note: Due to the large number of floor plans in Scott's privatized housing, this list includes the UAs for a selection of the most common floor plans. However, new utility billing will affect all base housing residents. Is your floor plan not included on this list? Call 746-4911 for information about your UA.

Colonial O-6 Duplex: $222
Georgian Duplex: $186
Patriots Landing 2 BR: $102
Patriots Landing 3 BR: $128
Lincoln's Landing E-9: $242
Shiloh West O-6 type B: $250
Shiloh East 3 BR: $170

Frequently Asked Questions

The Presidential Executive Order was signed in 1994, why are we just now beginning to pay for utilities in base housing?

Prior to privatization and the order, the base paid for the utilities in base housing, as such, meters were not attached to homes. Throughout the privatization process, meters were added in compliance with the executive order. Now that all homes on Scott are metered and there has been sufficient time to gather substantial data to determine monthly averages for each floor plan, the new utility billing is beginning.

I've been getting the mock bills, but there's so much to look at and they change frequently so I'm not sure how to read them. I'm worried I won't know how to read my utility bill when they go live.

Mock bills have undergone several changes, not all of which have been terribly user-friendly. The bills, once live, will have a standard, non-changing look and will look exactly like any other bill that you've had from previous energy providers, your cell phone company, etc.

I have three kids but my neighbor only has one, why do we have the same utility allowance?

Utility allowances are based on the floor plan of the house you live in. Similar to your BAH, your utility allowance does not increase or decrease based on how many dependents you have.

How much money is the property management company making off of this new billing plan?

Not a dime. The project covers the cost of the utility bills, the fees for resident billing, as well as the analysis and computation of utility usage and allowances. It also gives the resident an extra 10 percent beyond the expected cost of utilities. Hunt will not see any increase in funds from this project.



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