Villa Rica's water, sewer and trash customers will be seeing a major change this month in the way the city bills them for those services, with different due dates based on where they live.

City officials have grouped the utility customers into four groups, based on geographic designations. Instead of their bills being due on the 15th of the month as in the past, each of those customers must pay according to the due date for their area.

Customers who live in the downtown area have a due date of the seventh day of each month. If that date is a Saturday, the due date is the sixth day; if the date falls on a Sunday, the due date will be the eighth day of the month.

Customers who live in the area of Villa Rica High School and River Trace Drive have a due date of the 14th day of the month. If that date is a Saturday, the due date will be the 13th day; if it falls on a Sunday, the due date will be the 15th day of the month.

Customers who live in Mirror Lake will have a due date of the 21st day of the month. If that date is a Saturday, the bills will be due on the 20th day; if the date is a Sunday, the bills will be due on the 22nd day.

For customers living south of Interstate 20, the due date will be the 28th day of the month. If that date is a Saturday, the bill will be due on the 27th day of the month; if the date falls on a Sunday, the due date will be the 29th day of the month.

These geographic zones, or groups of utility customers, are general areas. Residents of each zone are being notified by mail as to the exact dates that their bills will be due.

The new billing system is being rolled out this month. Consequently, there will be an adjustment period in which some customers will see slightly larger or slightly smaller partial bills, depending on where they live.

The due dates will also be different than the new due dates during October, but those new dates will be in effect for each group starting in November.

Customers were sent their September bills on Sept. 25, a little earlier than normal.

Those who live in the downtown are should expect to see their first bill under the new system to be similar to what they pay on average. The customers' September bill will be due on Oct. 16. Their October bill will be mailed on Oct. 19, and will be due on their new due date of Nov. 7. If not paid, water services will be cut off on the 25th of the month.

Those who live in the area around the high school and River Trace can expect a slightly larger bill for October, roughly equivalent to five weeks' worth of water, sewer and trash service. The bill in November should be normal. Their September bill will be due on Oct. 16. Their October bill will be mailed on Oct. 26 and will be due on Nov. 14, the new due date. If not paid, water services will be cut off around the second day of the following month.

Mirror Lake residents will see a smaller, partial bill in October, roughly the equivalent of two weeks' worth of water, sewer and trash service. The November bill will be for a full month's service. The residents' September bill will be due on Oct. 16 and their October bill, mailed on Oct. 6, will be due Oct. 20. Their November bill, mailed on Nov. 7, will be due on the new date of Nov. 21. If not paid, water services will be cut off around the eighth day of the following month.

Those who live south of I-20 will also see a smaller, partial bill in October, roughly equivalent to three weeks' worth of service. That month's bill will be mailed out on Oct. 13. The September bill will be due on Oct. 16, and the October bill will be due on Oct. 27. Their November bill, mailed on Nov. 14, will be due on the new date of Nov. 28. If not paid, water services will be cut off around the 15th of the following month.

In all groups, there will be a 10 percent penalty added for balances not paid by the due date.

The new system is referred to in accounting terms as "cycle billing," and is meant to assist both residents and the city staff that prepare and send out the bills.

Staggering out the billings over the course of the month, which each zone having its own date for meter-reading, billing mail outs, due dates and cutoff dates, will, officials say, enable staff to do their billing work more smoothly. With the current system, they are very busy around the 15th of the month preparing bills for all city customers, and less busy during other weeks of the month. The system should also help the city's cash flow.

The new system is also expected to help residents by not allowing so much time to elapse between due date and cutoff date. Under the old system, customers who had been cut off could accrue a very large bill that could be prohibitively expensive when they apply for reconnection. City officials expect the new system to be easier for those who sometimes struggle to pay their monthly bill.

The new cycle billing system was approved during the City Council meeting of Sept. 5.

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