Pay your taxes with a credit card? Village is considering it

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    WARWICK—Pretty soon Village of Warwick residents may be able to say "Charge It" to pay their taxes. Trustee George McManus resurrected an idea that was discussed one year ago—letting village taxpayers pay their village property, water, and sewer taxes with their credit card. "We should allow our taxpayers to pay their taxes with a credit card," said McManus. Warwick wouldn't be the first municipality to do it. McManus read a list of 20 in the state that have the ability to accept credit cards, including Amherst, Beacon, East Chester, Huntington, New York City, LaGrange, Rome, Rye, Smithtown and Thompson. Mayor Michael Newhard said it is an interesting idea, one the board will discuss with Gail Romanoski, the treasurer, and Michael Vernieri, the auditor. "It is an interesting idea," Newhard said. "We'll bring it up again at our budget session." McManus said that the idea of allowing credit cards was not well received by Romanoski and Vernieri last year, with both believing it would be an accounting nightmare. Romanoski hasn't changed her mind completely, but said she is willing to listen to the proposal and see how it will affect her bookkeeping. Romanoski breaks down all of the deposits manually on a ledger then enters them into the computer system, a very tedious and time-consuming job. She said she was going to do away with the manual ledger but the village bought a new accounting system that still has a few glitches to be worked out. If all of that tax money comes in on one transaction, Romanoski has to break it up and distribute it to the proper account — general fund, water or sewer. "It is a lot of work," she said. "If someone charges the three taxes at once, I will have to break it down to distribute it to the correct account. Unless you do it, you are not aware of the amount of work involved." Last year the village explored adding this service with their bank, Bank of New York. However, they dropped the idea because of the banking fees that would be assessed against the village. In the meantime, McManus found a company, Official Payments Corporation, which provides this service to municipalities without transaction fees to the village. There is a three percent fee to the taxpayer to use the system, which can be accessed either by phone or via the internet. You won't be able to walk into the village Hall and charge it. Romanoski said there were only about four requests for charging taxes last year. But McManus said that even if only a handful of people use it, it would still be worth it. "The village shouldn't tell people how to manage their money," he said. "What if someone uses their credit card to earn miles or if they have a CD coming due and don't want to break it? This is a convenience we'd be offering." Typically, checks deposited are paid to the village in about four days. With the credit card system, the village will have its money in just 24 hours. Newhard said a decision would not be made before getting input from those who are affected by it — namely Romanoski. They will research how much more work it would be, if any, to incorporate this into their payment options. If they decide to go forward, the village would notify Official Payments Corporation, who would put the system in place for an initial set-up cost of $1,000. After that, there is no charge to the village. During the transaction, it will be very clear that an additional three percent charge is being added to the total being charged, Newhard noted. A $6.50 charge would be added to the water and sewer bill if paid with the credit card. If the board wants to move forward with this, the village will look into having the system in place sometime next month when taxes are due. It takes less than two weeks for the company to get the system in place, Newhard said. "We want to give people several options of how to pay their taxes. We'll see hot it works," he added.