Fees cost county $29K

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Residents swipe their credit and debit cards at the grocery store, at the gas pump and even at the Probate office; however, the process cost the county roughly $29,000 over the last two fiscal years.

Probate Judge Ben Bowden addressed the commission Monday asking for funds from the county commission to offset the fee for swiping those cards.

“There is a fee we have when we contracted (with the credit card processing agency,” he said. “We pay it all along with tax receipts and at the end of the period the county commission replaces the money. The commission has traditionally absorbed the costs.”

Bowden said when the Probate office began the practice in 2000, the interest more than offset the fee.

“Every year, the volume (of credit card sales) has gone up,” he said. “And now I get less than 1 percent (interest) in my accounts. The interest doesn’t cover the costs.”

Bowden also asked the commission to find a solution to deal with the future costs.

“The use is going to go up, not down,” he said. “It’s a worthwhile service, so I’d like to see us continue it.”

Bowden said the Probate office does collect miscellaneous fees that add up to about $35,000.

“We are collecting enough fees to cover it,” he said.

Currently the miscellaneous fees go into the county’s general fund.

District 1 Commissioner David Ellis said the $35,000 collected in miscellaneous fees isn’t solely profit.

“I guess nothing I collect at the Probate office is pure profit,” Bowden said. “I have overhead like anyone else.”

The commission voted to pay the approximately $29,000 for the audited period, plus any fees associated with the credit card usage for the 2011 fiscal year.

The commission discussed exploring placing credit card machines in other county offices, but will decide at a later date on this issue.

Additionally, the commission voted to ask all the county entities to come together under an umbrella to seek a joint bid for the best interest rate available.

Each entity would have a separate account.

In other business, the commission:

• Announced a May 9 date for the public hearing for the proposed closure of Drip Rock Road.

• Voted to make an upcoming wellness screening mandatory because the county is required to have a least 30 percent participation or it will lose the preferred health insurance premium. Administrator Brenda Petty said this was very important because the county currently pays 100 percent of single coverage for its employees.

• Passed a resolution and contribution agreement for the Vector expansion project and the South Alabama Regional Airport debt refinancing. The county is responsible for 37.5 percent, which is less than the 50 percent it is usually responsible.