ABERDEEN - Aberdeen senior citizens could be able to budget for their electric bills starting in May if a proposed billing program is approved.

Grey Neely, general manager for the Aberdeen Electric Department, said the Board of Aldermen is looking at a proposal that would help residents 65 or older budget for their monthly electric bills.

The process, which could be approved within the next 30 days, is called "budget billing." Neely said residents will be notified by mail about the program. Once the customer has signed on, the electric department would look at last year's total bills to determine an average monthly cost.

This cost, plus a percentage above that cost, will be what the resident will pay each month. Neely said the added percentage will act as a buffer so that participants will not have to pay any extra charges at the end of the year.

The electric department has yet to determine what the percentage should be.

At the end of the year, which will run from May to May, statements will be reconciled to find out if the customer will receive a refund or have to pay.

"This process will help our senior residents budget for their bills," Neely said. "Aberdeen has a good population of older citizens, and most are on a fixed income and need to budget."

The program will be done on a yearly basis and if a new resident wants to take part, he or she would have to wait until the next year to join, he said.

Those residents who do not wish to take part in the program don't have to, he said.

Mayor Don Brasfield said he believes that budget billing is a good idea. "I think it is an excellent idea if it is workable," he said.

Neely said the program is being used in other cities, such as Holly Springs, Tupelo, Pontotoc and Tishomingo.

For the last 10 years, Holly Springs has used budget billing. Tom Boone, manager for the Holly Springs Utility Department, said a majority of the residents who sign up are senior citizens. But only a small percent of the city's customers use budget billing.

In Holly Springs, the city takes the average of a resident's previous year's bills to determine what the monthly payment will be. Boone said no additional percentage is added, which does cause some problems at the end of the year if residents have to pay.

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