Tompkins County
New York

Resolution
2017-202

Authorization to Implement the Acceptance of Credit and Debit Cards

Information

Department:Finance DepartmentSponsors:
Category:FiscalFunctions:Fiscal (Budget)

Resolution/Document Body

WHEREAS the Finance Department has researched the benefits and costs of implementing the acceptance of credit and debit cards for payments in the Treasury Division, and

 

WHEREAS the Government Operations Committee has deliberated upon the merits of accepting credit and debit cards for payments in the Treasury Division of the Finance Department, and

 

WHEREAS a variety of customers of the Treasury Division of the Finance Department would be able to make payments by credit card or debit card for the following fees, taxes, and charges, including, but not limited to:

·              Real estate taxes

·              Retiree health insurance premiums

·              Occupancy taxes

·              Tax searches and copies, and

 

WHEREAS payments by credit and debit cards would be voluntary and no taxpayer or customer would be required or forced to pay by credit or debit card, and

 

WHEREAS Systems East, Inc., the current provider of the Finance Department’s Tax Collection software, offers a module called “Xpress-pay” that would allow the Treasury Division of the Finance Department to accept credit and debit card payments from its customers, at no cost to the County, with the cost borne by the customer, and

 

WHEREAS it has been determined it would be in the best interest of Tompkins County to enter into an arrangement with Systems East, Inc., 6 Locust Avenue, Cortland, NY 13045, to provide Tompkins County with Xpress-pay as a means to accept credit and debit card payments in person and by computer or mobile devise, now therefore be it

 

RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Government Operations Committee, That:

 

1.              Tompkins County Finance Department is hereby authorized to enter into an arrangement with the Systems East, Inc., to provide Tompkins County Finance Department with the ability to accept online payments, which is the ability to accept payments via credit or debit card. There will be no cost for Tompkins County; any transaction fees will be paid by the customer.

 

2.              The County Administrator, or his designee, be and hereby is authorized to execute any and all contractual agreements with Systems East, Inc., to effectuate the implementation of online payments, which is the ability to accept payments via credit or debit card.

 

              RESOLVED, further, That information will be provided to taxpayers regarding service charges and fees associated with payment by credit card.

SEQR ACTION:  TYPE II-20

 

 

Meeting History

Oct 4, 2017 3:30 PM  Government Operations Committee Regular Meeting

Mr. Snyder introduced Melanie Merriman of his office and said that they have addressed the questions raised at the last meeting as provided in the agenda packet. A resolution was prepared for the Committee if it wished to consider it.

In response to Mr. Burbank’s questions about other departments already collecting payments by credit cards, Mr. Snyder said there are other departments accepting payment by credit cards for services provided and that some of those departments are paying the fees associated with the payment, while some are passed on to the consumer.

Ms. Chock said she continues to have a problem with this concept as it essentially raises an individual’s tax payments if using a credit card; a tax bill of $1,000 would carry a fee of $28.90. She spoke of the information she distributed to the Committee concerning online bill paying. Ms. Merriman said the Finance Department accepts that form of payment now; however, payments in the form of electronic checks as prepared by the consumer are not yet accepted through the bank. In addition, she spoke of the process for e-checks where the consumer goes in and requests the bank to send the County a check is an acceptable form of payment. The forms of payments currently accepted by the Finance Department are all initiated by the consumer.

Ms. Chock requested and Mr. Snyder agreed to add language to the memorandum that “online bill pay” is an acceptable form of payment.

Mr. John spoke about language being added to the tax bill concerning disclosure as some municipalities do not have the ability to process payments by credit card.

Ms. Merriman expressed concern with adding language to the tax bill concerning credit card payments as she believes it would create great confusion as each municipality is different as it relates to the acceptable form of payment for taxes. Mr. Franklin commented that the tax bills for each municipality are different and can be customized. Mr. Snyder clarified that the credit card payment proposal would only apply if taxes were being paid after April 1 to the County, not the municipality.

In response to Mr. Mareane, Ms. Merriman said the Municipal Clerks do reminder notices. Mr. Mareane asked if in the correspondence the information about credit card payment could be added. Ms. Merriman believes that could be an option.

Mr. Burbank said he would be more comfortable with accepting the credit card payment option if it was clearly stated that it could be significantly costly to the taxpayer.

At this time, Mr. Franklin shared a copy of the Town of Lansing’s tax bill with proposed language submitted by Ms. Chock and what it would look like on the bill.

Further discussion followed concerning the various forms of payments available and the impacts each may have on the taxpayer can be clearly stated.

Mr. Mareane clarified the concerns being raised and believes it is important that the taxpayer know the consequences and is aware of the options available for paying taxes by credit card, but is also aware of all options available. He asked if having a separate memo was prepared with a statement about the options in a bulleted format would be acceptable.

Ms. Chock said that would address some of her concerns, but she further questioned how taxpayers should be allowed to pay the taxes owed prior to foreclosure.

Ms. Kiefer expressed her concern with offering people at the margin of managing their money to have this tempting option of using a credit card when they don't have money to cover it.

The Committee accepted the suggestion to add “Finance Department” to Section 1 of the Resolved.

Ms. Kiefer and Ms. Chock stated they were not in support of voting for this resolution at this time.

Following further discussion, it was MOVED by Ms. Chock, seconded by Ms. Kiefer, to add the following Resolved: “RESOLVED, further, That information will be provided to taxpayers regarding service charges and fees associated with payment by credit card.” This was accepted as friendly.

Mr. Snyder said the information about charges and fees is available when an individual goes to the website at the time payment is being made.

RESULT:RECOMMENDED [3 TO 2]
MOVER:Rich John, Member
SECONDER:Daniel Klein, Chair
AYES:Daniel Klein, Rich John, Will Burbank
NAYS:Carol Chock, Dooley Kiefer
Oct 17, 2017 5:30 PM Media Tompkins County Legislature Regular Meeting

Ms. Chock said she cannot support the resolution and would rather see people spend extra money on local items that are needed rather than sending to credit card companies. In addition to the 2.85% fee, it does not include ongoing interest charged by a credit card company. She said there is another option available and offered by banks of having an electronic check for a very low cost. She said there are towns that do offer this option and thinks there should be coordination with them to learn of best practices.

Ms. Kelles said this is an option that is being added and people would not be required to pay by credit. She doesn’t think it is up to this Legislature to dictate or hold options from people because it may be risky. This provides an option for people to maintain their finances electronically which is being done by many people these days.

Mr. Sigler thanked Mr. Klein for bringing this forward and said he has been asked why this isn’t offered.

Mr. Klein thanked Finance Director Rick Snyder and his staff person Melanie Merriman for their work on this.

RESULT:ADOPTED [11 TO 2]
MOVER:Daniel Klein, Vice Chair
SECONDER:Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Member
AYES:Will Burbank, James Dennis, Rich John, Anna Kelles, Daniel Klein, Michael Lane, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Martha Robertson, David McKenna, Glenn Morey, Michael Sigler
NAYS:Carol Chock, Dooley Kiefer