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Hillsdale mayor calls for the end of rounding-up program for utility bills

Hillsdale’s mayor wants to end a rounding-up program that sends money from utility bills to a local relief program.

Mayor Adam Stockford called for an immediate end to Operation Round Up during a city council meeting last week, reports the Hillsdale Daily News.

The program, operated by the city’s Board of Public Utilities, rounds up participating customers’ bills to the nearest dollar. It transfers the remaining cents into a fund to assist eligible utility customers who have a financial hardship.

Funds collected through the program are held by Community Action Agency, Inc., a nonprofit that reported just under $16 million in contributions and grants for 2019. Community Action Agency, in turn, determines which customers are in need and calculates how much help they need.

Customers are automatically enrolled in Operation Round Up, though they can opt out at any time.

Stockford cited several concerns with the program, saying the city appears to lack a written policy about it. He also objected to the funding mechanism.

“I appreciate what CAA does, but no one should be forced to contribute to a non-profit,” Stockford was quoted as saying by the Daily News.

The program was started in 2009, under previous city leadership, with a stated goal of helping those struggling with their utility bills.

Many other investor-owned utilities and electric co-ops in Michigan, including the nearby Coldwater Board of Public Utilities, offer similar programs, which are allowed by state law.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.