Franklin County Officials Spar Over Online Tax Payments - The Missourian: County

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Franklin County Officials Spar Over Online Tax Payments

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Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2013 3:00 pm | Updated: 12:18 pm, Mon Feb 25, 2013.

Two elected officials remain in a dispute over online payments of property taxes.

Franklin County officials met for more than an hour Wednesday to discuss offering residents new options to pay for county services.

Those options include putting credit card machines in county offices, such as the building department, to give residents another way to pay for permits and other services.

Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said he would also like to have a system in which residents could have the option to pay their property taxes online with credit cards.

Conflict

“I’m to the point where I’m tired of discussing this damn thing,” Griesheimer said. “We need to make a decision.”

But County Collector of Revenue Linda Emmons said the way the matter is being handled “irks” her, and she does not want the county to “stick it to the taxpayers.”

Griesheimer said Wednesday that he would like to have the online property tax payment system running by July 1.

“We are going to get there this year,” Griesheimer said.

But that could be harder than it sounds, because Griesheimer and Emmons have been at odds over the proposed online payment system for months.

The Wednesday meeting did not show any lessening of those tensions, as the two elected officials squared off on the matter again.

EZ Pay Dispute

Emmons is skeptical of  using a company that met with county officials Wednesday.

She said she worries that the company, EZ Pay, could cause problems with her department.

She questioned whether EZ Pay has the programming capabilities in place to offer online property tax payments for her office.

“There are not that many companies that provide programming for collectors,” Emmons said.

Steve Carrier with EZ Pay said it would not be difficult for his company to meet the programming needs of Emmons’ office.

However, Emmons said there is more involved in the programming than what Griesheimer thinks.

She said the company she wants to use, Federal Payments, currently has the programming in place since it has already done online payment services for more than 20 collectors’ offices.

Therefore, using Federal Payments would be easier for her office instead of using EZ Pay, she said.

But Emmons said Griesheimer has been adamant about wanting to use EZ  Pay.

Griesheimer disagreed, saying, “I’m not totally sold with EZ Pay.”

He added, “I don’t get anything out of it.”

Emmons said she could have offered online payment of property taxes in November through Federal Payments, but Griesheimer refused to sign off on an agreement to use the company.

Griesheimer said the agreement he refused to sign had nothing to do with online payments.

But in the spirit of cooperation Griesheimer said Wednesday that the county would contact Federal Payments to see what that company can offer.

Griesheimer said the county should use one company as opposed to having multiple credit card service vendors operating in the county.

“We need to have one unified contract,” Griesheimer said. “It makes it so much easier.”

Fees and Charges

Emmons worries that using EZ Pay would cost the taxpayers more money.

“I’m not in favor of doing that at all,” Emmons said.

Emmons’ office already accepts credit card payments at the counter.

She currently uses First Data for credit card payments services. But she said she is looking to switch to Federal Payments because First Data would also require extra programming like EZ Pay to do online payments.

She said First Data and Federal Payments would each charge a 2.5 percent fee to citizens who make payments with credit cards.

She said she worries that EZ Pay would charge 4 percent.

Carrier said the highest credit card fee his company would charge to the taxpayer is 4 percent.

“We (EZ Pay) just pass on our merchant service fees; we don’t make any money on that,” he said.

Carrier emphasized that he does not know without doing more research what the fee would be for Franklin County. It could be less than 4 percent, he said.

“I don’t know that it is 4 percent,” Carrier said. “I’m not going to sit here and say that it is a certain percentage.”

Carrier noted that there also would be a separate convenience fee of about $3 that his company would charge.

Emmons said Federal Payments would not have the convenience charge.

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