Online Payment Dispute Remains Unresolved In Franklin County - The Missourian: Local News

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Online Payment Dispute Remains Unresolved In Franklin County

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Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 3:00 pm

County commissioners have still not decided which firm should be selected to handle taxpayer credit card services.

Rather than the issue being politicized, County Collector of Revenue Linda Emmons said county officials should be focused on getting the best firm to serve the taxpayers.

“It shouldn’t be a big issue,” Emmons said.

Indecision

Emmons and Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer were at odds over which company to use for credit card services and online payments.

The goal is to bring more convenience to the taxpayers by allowing them to pay for property taxes and other county services online.

County officials recently met with two firms that offer the services. But it is unclear whether the impasse between Griesheimer and Emmons is closer to being resolved.

Emmons has made it clear that she wants to use a firm called Federal Payments.

But Griesheimer will not publicly discuss which firm he thinks is best.

County Counselor Mark Vincent said the county commissioners should not get into a public discussion about which company may be best while the different firms are being evaluated.

Security Concerns

Picking a firm with a strong security record is critical to protect taxpayers’ personal information, said Dennis Grabowski with Official Payments, a Norcross, Ga., firm that met with the county last Thursday.

Whichever firm is chosen could make a significant amount of money by charging fees to taxpayers who pay for county services with credit cards.

Emmons’ office bills out more than $100 million in property taxes annually, but not all of the taxpayers are expected to pay online with credit cards. Some will still pay the old-fashioned way with a check.

The county commissioners have now met with three companies about offering credit card and online payment services in county offices.

Different Firms

Griesheimer has expressed interest in using a firm called EZ Pay but has said that he is not committed to the company.

No matter which firm is chosen, Griesheimer is adamant about using one company instead of having multiple credit card service vendors operating in the county. This will make it a simpler, unified contract, he added.

But Emmons said she does not understand why Griesheimer is interested in being consistent now. He was apparently not interested in consistency recently when some county offices were allowed to give pay raises while employees in other departments were left making the same amount, she said.

Griesheimer said he did not want to respond to Emmons’ statement.

“I’m just not going to go there,” Griesheimer said.

Emmons said she was ready to move forward with a contract with Federal Payments last year, but Griesheimer refused to sign the agreement.

But Griesheimer said that agreement had nothing to do with online payment of property taxes.

Emmons disagrees, saying if Griesheimer would have signed the agreement she could have already offered online property tax payments.

Expense

Cost and computer programming issues are the main factors that county officials are considering when deciding which firm to contract with for online payment services.

No matter which firm the county chooses, the county should have little or no costs. The county may have to purchase equipment to swipe the credit cards in the offices.

But other than those costs, the credit card service companies make their money by charging a fee when taxpayers pay for services.

Emmons said she believes the fee for using Federal Payments would be lower than EZ Pay.

An EZ Pay representative recently told the county commissioners that the most his company would charge would be 4 percent plus an additional convenience fee of about $3.

Federal Payments representative Rolando Navarro told the commissioners that his company’s fee would be 2.5 percent for a credit card and $1.50 for an electronic check.

Official Payments said its fees could be 2.45 percent for a credit card and up to $4.95 for debit cards.

Emmons said she worries EZ Pay and Official Payments do not have the programming to handle online tax payments from her office.

But representatives from EZ Pay and Official Payments say their companies can offer the needed services to Emmons’ office.

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