Plainfield explores first steps for credit card payments

By Marney Simon | Enterprise Staff

Hoping to give Plainfield residents options in paying their utility bills, the Board of Trustees is looking to add a credit card payment option for users.

Earlier this summer, the board directed staff to seek options for processing payments via credit card.

On Sept. 11, staff presented the results of their research on the option at the Committee of the Whole meeting.

The village currently takes direct payments, debit transactions, and electronic checks for utility bills.

Of more than 13,000 transactions per month, roughly 3,600 occur at the window at Village Hall, or dropped into the payment box. That represents about 27 percent of the payments each month, a heavy load for village staff.

But while a credit card payment option could be more convenient all around, processing those payments comes at a price.

The village can absorb that cost itself, or choose to pass it along to residents who use the service.

Staff told board members the recommendation was leaning toward the village taking on that cost for utility billing.

One benefit of the village taking responsibility for those costs, according to staff, is a lower rate in terms of a processing fee.

Staff said they’d like to utilize a process where the village pays the transaction fees for utility bills only, which is the majority of transactions processed by the village.

“We’re doing about 117,000 utility billings a year. Our second largest after that is building permit fees at 2,300. So [utility billing] really is where the majority of our credit card efforts would end up going,” said Village Administrator Brian Murphy.

The total fees absorbed by the village annually would reach about $10,000 for all residential utility payments on credit card.

Staff also noted that giving residents the chance to pay their utility bills online at their own convenience may help alleviate late payments.

“There are some times when people just forget to pay their bill,” said Tracy Pleckham, Director of Management Services. “It’s 10 at night and they want to jump online and make their payment so they’re not in this pickle, and staff thought this might be a better idea. We have the ability to track the data as it relates to the number of late notices sent, I think this is just one other opportunity to help the residents who can’t get [to Village Hall] to make that payment on a timely basis, for whatever reason.”

The village will not store credit card information at the Village Hall, as the service will be provided entirely through a third party.

The village will explore options for credit card fees for other fees, such a building permits, fines, or liquor licenses, separately.

Board members discussed the possibility of charging a credit card transaction fee for payments other than utility bills of those transactions are above $200.

Village staff will continue to research the process of creating a system for credit card transactions. The board will decide on implementation of the proposed new service at a later date.

The village hopes to have the new credit card payment option in place by the beginning of 2018.

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