Morgan County residents paying property taxes and renewing or purchasing tags with credit cards will have to resume paying processing fees that had been waived during the pandemic to encourage remote transactions. 

The County Commission voted Tuesday to end the credit card fee waiver in the revenue and license departments effective Friday in a step to return things “back to normal” with COVID-19 vaccines plentiful.

Commission Chairman Ray Long said the County Commission absorbed more than $400,000 in credit and debit card processing fees since April 2020, when the commission took precautions to keep courthouse staff and patrons safe.

“(The money we paid) wasn’t budgeted,” Long said. “It has been a major expense to the general fund. It’s time to get back to normal. I don’t think you should mandate taking the vaccines, but the people who aren’t vaccinated should not control how we operate. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”

As of the end of August, the county had paid $404,727 in credit/debit card fees since the online waiver was implemented, according to county administrator records. The license  commissioner's office waived $337,168 and the revenue commissioner's office waived $67,559 in almost a year and a half.

District 4 Commissioner Greg Abercrombie made the motion to end the county paying for the card processing fees.

“We originally voted to waive those fees to cut down on the foot traffic in the courthouse,” he said. “The (threat of COVID) has lessened somewhat. It’s simply time to get back to normal the best we can.”

Amanda Scott, revenue commissioner, said she has mixed feelings about the credit card fee waiver ending.

“I was a little surprised to hear that the credit card fee had been reinstated with COVID cases still high,” she said. “However, the revenue commissioner’s office absorbed more than $54,000 in credit card fee expense in the last year, so I understand how it had to end at some point.”

She said about 15% of property owners paid by credit card in the last fiscal year compared to 11% during pre-pandemic times.

The credit card convenience fee charged in her office in a normal year is 2.5%, she said. 

“We did everything possible to decrease traffic in the office to prevent COVID exposure to the public and our employees. I feel that we were successful, as only two employees in the revenue commissioner’s office were diagnosed with COVID and were found to be exposed by family members not coworkers,” she added.

Sharon Maxwell, license commissioner, said patrons using online services was a success and she believes many will continue to purchase online.

"We saw a tremendous increase of online registration renewals of approximately 70%," she said. "In addition, the mail registration renewals increased 20% with 10% in-person registration renewals."

Maxwell said the online service her office used for debit/credit card purchases charged a 2.75% processing fee.

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mike.wetzel@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel.

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