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Yuba City miscalculation leads to $215K goof

Businesses benefiting from a $215,000 billing error by Yuba City will pay back the municipality in the next year, the City Council decided Tuesday after being advised it could choose to dismiss the loss.

Councilman Tej Maan said the city should collect from commercial customers underbilled after new wastewater rates began a year ago.

"It's the only fair thing to do," Maan said. "They did get a break."

SEE THE REPORT.

Robin Bertagna, city finance director, said after the council meeting that the error was discovered last month after the engineering staff for a Yuba City business computed its bill. The computers the municipality used were billing businesses at an incorrect rate, she said.

"All we can do is stick up our hand and say, 'We blew it,'" Bertagna said. "I wish it wouldn't have happened."

She said that if the Yuba City business hadn't found the error, "We'd like to think we would have discovered it" — or that the city's auditor would have.

Bertagna said she's been with the city for 14 years. It's the first such problem Yuba City's encountered.

The Finance Department reviewed all commercial wastewater account histories to determine the amount underbilled for each account, her staff report to the City Council noted. The error left the city with $789,000 in revenues for the new sewer fees rather than the $1 million the city projected.

City Manager Steve Jepsen recommended the municipality collect the past due fees during the next year. He told council members they could decide against back billing accounts. The city could have begun billing at the corrected rates.

Jepsen said Yuba City will work with businesses that want more time to pay.

The council voted unanimously to collect the funds. The $215,000 total includes $4,000 for Yuba City wastewater accounts.

CONTACT Ryan McCarthy at rmccarthy@appealdemocrat.com or 749-4780. Find him on Facebook at /ADrmccarthy or on Twitter at @ADrmccarthy.


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