When you pour a glass of water from the faucet, you expect a healthy, taste-free drink at an inexpensive price. The residents of Flint, Michigan, are getting neither. Not only are they dealing with the devastating news that their families were drinking lead-tainted water but also they were paying twice the national average for the privilege. USA Today recently reported how Flint residents paid a premium price for toxic water.
Clean water is a hot topic around the globe, but here at home we expect our water to be pristine, cheap and properly billed according to usage. A few years ago in Texas, more than 100,000 Austin Energy customers endured a multitude of billing errors. In some cases, businesses were charged $30,000—even $300,000—for a $3,000 bill. Others received no bill at all or made payments that were never recorded. These kinds of errors make it hard to run a business efficiently.
Identifying and correcting billing errors is an important issue every business should consider. When reviewing your water usage, organizations should be on the lookout for:
- Estimated bills that are not based on actual readings,
- Billing that doesn’t correlate to the actual meter size,
- Spikes in usage that could indicate leaks and other problems,
- Accounts you may be paying for that aren’t actually yours,
- Sewer charges that include usage other than water (e.g., irrigation or storm water), and
- Storm water charges based on incorrect square footage.
Beyond Water and Sewer
If your business spans multiple locations, utility errors can add up—and that goes beyond just water and sewer. It’s critical to keep a close eye on all your utility services and expenses, including energy, telecom and waste removal. Common problems are:
- Misaligned rates that don’t reflect your business’ needs and usage,
- Overcharges for facilities or services you no longer use or need,
- Hidden charges, taxation errors, excessive deposits, and
- Behind-the-scene changes at the utility company that may adversely affect your rates.
Cleveland, Ohio, is a good case in point. City managers knew they needed to review accounts and charges for electricity, telecommunications and cellular costs, but they didn’t have the expertise or the manpower to do the job internally. They also lacked the budget to pay an outside consultant. They hired Cost Control Associates to do the work on a contingency basis with no upfront costs to the city. The results produced refunds and cost savings of more than $1,000,000.
For 25 years Cost Control Associates has helped multi-site businesses and organizations reduce and better manage energy, waste removal and telecom/cellular costs. Because Cost Control is independent of any utility providers or equipment installers, the company is guided solely by its customers’ best interests. Our client list comprises Fortune 500 corporations, mid-to-large companies, school districts and universities, governments and agencies as well as not-for-profits. Our programs include utility invoice audits (a customized review of rates and services), centralized invoice processing and payment, energy and cellular procurement, worry-free location opening-and-closing services, energy budgeting/forecasting and more.
Keith Laake founded Cost Control Associates, Inc. in 1991 and has been responsible for strategic planning, marketing and sales, and overall management of the firm. He currently focuses on business development. Keith received his BBA from the University of Wisconsin and is a certified public accountant. Learn more.