The Jefferson County Commission will decide Thursday whether persons and businesses doing business with the county will have to pay more for the convenience of using credit cards when paying bills at the county’s Revenue Department.
The Revenue Department sought a resolution during today’s committee meeting to add 1% to a transaction amount with a minimum of $1.95 for over-the-counter electronic payments.
Travis Hulsey, the director of revenue, said there’s been growing use of credit cards and debit cards instead of cash and checks the past several years. He added that there’s a cost associated with those cards, fees that must be paid to the credit card processing company.
“We’re at a point where we’re going to exceed our allocated budget for the year,” Hulsey said, “unless we have an opportunity to share those costs with the end users.”
Commission President Jimmie Stephens said convenience fees provide an undue hardship on county citizens.
“What they’ve asked today is if you pay with your credit card, you give us some extra money because of the convenience of using your credit card,” Stephens said. “You don’t do that at the grocery store. They don’t say: If you use your credit card, it’s going to cost you an extra 1% or whatever and it shouldn’t be that way here also.”
The commission president said the county should do a better job of establishing its budget. “We should put that into our cost of doing business with our citizens,” he said. “It’s unfair to charge them an additional dollar or 1% just to do business with Jefferson County.”
Hulsey said his department has charged a convenience fee for internet transactions for the past 15 years or more. Also, other county departments are charging a convenience fee at their various departments.
“This is the first time that revenue (department) has been faced with this responsibility,” he said of over-the-counter fees. “I don’t like charging the convenience fee but we’re at a point where in order to stay within our allocated budget, we’ll need to share that cost with the end users to stay within our operating budget.”
During the committee meeting, Stephens suggested that perhaps a cap should be put in place if a convenience fee is charged for using a credit card. Hulsey said that would complicate the matter.
“We would have to orchestrate our convenience fees not only around the card processing but also our motor vehicle registration system as well,” the revenue director said. “The more options and factors you put in there, the more difficult it is actually to administer and keep up with accounting for that.”
Hulsey was also concerned about large companies that use credit cards in order to get travel discounts or cash back benefits. “They would be the highest beneficiary of those limitations whereas the average citizen would pay the full 1%,” he said.
Commissioners moved the matter to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting. Commissioner Steve Ammons asked and was assured that the matter could be given separate consideration and not automatically passed on unanimous consent.
Stephens also talked about an ADEM hearing this afternoon in which efforts would be made to propose regulations for solid waste to again come into Alabama from other states. So-called “poop trains” made a literal and figurative stink in 2017 as solid waste was brought into the area by rail.
The commission in October 2017 denied a zoning request from Sumiton Timber Company and Sky Environmental to change the zoning on a 4-acre property on Snowville Brent Road in Dora that would have permitted bringing in waste. A packed commission chamber cheered its approval.
Stephens said he voiced his opinion in a conference call, stating that “we do not need New Jersey and New York solid waste coming into the state of Alabama and more particularly Jefferson County. We’ll do whatever is needed and necessary to put forth those regulations to make sure the citizens of Jefferson County are well served.”