I've been waiting eagerly to use the city's new online payment option for property taxes, launched this summer. Today was payday and my car tax is due August 3rd, so today was the day to do it.
I'd been reading the letters to the editor in the Rep-Am written by taxpayers who were angry at having to pay a 3% convenience fee for paying by credit card. I didn't think this was a real problem, since they have always done that. The credit card companies charge the city that fee, so the city passes it on to the credit card user so that they don't lose any tax revenue. Nothing new there.
A letter to the editor from Steve Gambini, the Mayor's aide, seemed to clarify everything. Yes, there's a 3% fee for using a credit card, but that's normal. If you pay online by check, the fee is only fifty cents. Given that a stamp costs nearly that much and snail mail requires an earlier payment, I was content.
I went online this morning and eventually manoeuvred through the bill pay site (I had to do it twice--after I got through maybe five or six screens, I got a message telling me that I was using the wrong browser and needed to switch to Firefox). I finally got to the section where you actually pay the bill and was shocked by what I saw.
For a payment of $155.89, there is a mystery convenience fee of $4.68 which appears to be completely separate from the "convenience" fees related to the form of payment. That's a 3% fee, completely unexplained. I started getting very upset, but in the interest of properly testing the system for myself, I continued with the payment (also, I really didn't want to go wait in line for an hour at the Tax Collector's office).
Lo and behold! When you enter your direct debit information and move on to the next screen, the 3% fee magically transforms into the 50¢ fee!
I'll keep using the site to pay my taxes, but whoever designed the tax payment site needs to take a remedial course in User-Friendly Design.