Another way to delay taxes: Charge them

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 11, 2014

Commissioners OK credit card system for county

Those who do business with the county will soon be able to use credit cards for business transactions.

A plan approved by Covington County Commissioners Wednesday morning will put credit card capabilities in the officers of the sheriff, county engineer, probate judge, mapping and appraisal and revenue commissioner. County officials hope to have those systems operational by Oct. 1.

But using plastic will cost residents slightly more than paying by cash or check. The plan assesses a 3 percent charge or $3.95, whichever is greater, for every transaction.

For instance, a property owner who had a $1,000 tax bill would be assessed $30 to pay with a credit card.

While commissioners wanted to offer the convenience to taxpayers, Probate Judge Ben Bowden went on the record requesting that his office be excluded from the new plan.

“We have taken credit/debit cards at the probate office without charging the customer a transaction fee for at least six years,” he said. “We have managed the cost internally by keeping the rates low and covering the fees with earned interest, mail fees and copying fees.”

Bowden said he believes people will pay by check or cash to avoid the additional processing fees, which will in turn create longer lines in the courthouse.

“As it stands now, an on-line customer pays a mail fee to renew (tags) online,” he said. “If we add a transaction fee, I believe it is reasonable for customers to choose not to pay both, which would amount to $6 a tag, and return to the courthouse to wait in line. Losing on-line customers would be a real setback for us, as it was our goal to eventually replace a full-time employee through on-line sales – saving the county thousands of dollars each year.”

The fees for credit cards would not affect online bill-pay options provided by banks.

In other business, the commission:

• Amended its personnel plan to address the way pay raises are given. Under the new plan, a department head may request a pay raise. If the county administrator finds that the department has the budget to cover the additional expense, he or she can approve the raise. Previously, the commission chairman had that responsibility.

• Adjourned until 8:30 a.m. on Wed., Sept. 17, when it will consider the fiscal year 2015 budget.