Montgomery County: Fees to pay property taxes, dog tags online to drop

TY GREENLEES / STAFF

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TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Montgomery County entered into an agreement this week with a new electronic payment processor that will lower — but not eliminate — transaction fees, and make paying property taxes and other bills online simpler, officials said.

The county is “behind the curve” making it easy for residents to take care of business online, said Montgomery County Treasurer Russ Joseph, whose office initiated the change.

“Our payment side is not real friendly. It’s hard to get from beginning to end through the payment process,” he said. “It just was something that needed attention.”

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County commissioners on Tuesday approved a switch from FIS to Point & Pay, LLC to provide merchant services — both in-office and online — for several county entities including the Auditor’s Office, Building Regulations, Parks and Grounds, Common Pleas Court Probate Division, the Treasurer’s Office and others. Combined, they account on average for about 90,000 electronic payment transactions a year.

During 2019, the Treasurer's Office had 41,302 transactions by credit card, debit card or echeck. Of those, 37,964 — or 92% — were conducted online. The numbers do not account for transactions paid by cash or paper check, according to the treasurer.

Other county offices including the Common Pleas Court General Division and the Financial Services Division, which handles roughly 130,500 water and sewer electronic transactions a year and more than 76,000 related to solid waste disposal, are considering adopting the system, Joseph said.

The initial three-year deal with Point & Pay calls for the company to provide payment terminals for the county offices using the service and develop a mobile-friendly online payment site free of charge.

Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert said the Treasurer’s Office “came up with a low-cost solution that the entire county’s departments can share.”

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While the company will still collect a convenience fee, costs will be reduced. Credit card transactions will drop slightly from 2.35% to 2.3%; the fee to use a debit card will drop from $3.95 to $2.95; and the fee to pay by echeck will go from $1.17 to 50 cents.

“We get a lot of people paying by echeck online and we expect more people to do that,” Joseph said. “It becomes as cheap as it does to mail in a check. You can go online, take care of that payment and be done with it.”

The new online payment site should be operational in June before the second-half property tax deadline, which is July 17, Joseph said.

New features will allow an owner with multiple parcels to set up one account and have “everything under one roof,” he said. They can make a single or multiple payments on the date they want and by the payment method of their choice.

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When up and running, the new system will also handle payments to the Auditor’s Office for dog tags and for people wanting to rent out county park shelters.

Montgomery County Commissioner Carolyn Rice, who preceded Joseph as treasurer, said the agreement is a good upgrade for the county, which can be likened to a number of businesses with different missions under one umbrella.

“It is wonderful to see this evolve to the next level, being able to offer cost effective solutions for our citizens — as well as just getting with the times,” she said.

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