Town Talks Tech with E-Bill Pay

May 29, 2015

by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

A new online service offered by town hall could alleviate lines and save residents time when paying bills.

The new service, hosted by Invoice Cloud, will allow residents to pay property taxes, along with town-provided utility bills online, and offer the payment option of credit card.

Tax collector Cheryl-Ann Bolouk explained the new offering to selectmen on May 18, adding the options could reduce lines at town hall and eliminate them for patrons choosing to pay online.

“The customer is going to be able to view and or print their actual bill and have the option to pay online,” she said.

The program allows for full and partial payments, scheduling of future payments, and the ability to go paperless and have bills emailed.

Bolouk said there will not be a convenience fee associated with ACH and electronic transfers; however, customers wishing to pay with credit or debit cards will see an additional charge.

When paying property tax bills, customers will be charged 2.95-percent of the total bill.  Utility bill payments will carry a $4.95 fee for every increment of $250 paid.

“They are determined y the online bill collector, which is Invoice Cloud, for processing the payments,” Bolouk said.  “The fee is not controlled by the Town of Salem nor paid by the Town of Salem.

And already customers are using the service.  Bolouk said after only an hour online, two customers registered and paid bills.

Finance Director Jane Savastano demonstrated the service by logging into Selectman Patrick Hargreaves and Selectman Everett McBride’s accounts and paying their utility bills during the meeting.

Bolouk said the service cost $2,500 to buy and requires a $100 monthly maintenance fee paid by the town.

There are currently about 12,000 tax bills and 8,000 utility bills processed through the town hall.  Bolouk said she hoped the online service would reduce lines at town hall as there is currently a staffing shortage due to illness.

Town Manager Keith Hickey said the service has been added to other online offerings already in place including dog licenses, motor vehicle renewals, and recreation department program registration.

“We’re trying to expand the online services to the best of our ability,” he said.

Hargreaves was excited about the online offerings.  “Welcome to the 21st century,” he said.

Selectman Everett McBride asked if credit and debit cards would be used as payment within town hall.

Bolouk said challenges from credit card companies, specifically VISA, created a challenge to offer the service both online and in person.

“It’s a whole other issue, another step to purchase the software,” she said.  “I won’t ever be taking credit card over the counter.”

Bolouk said different fee charges from card companies mean increased processing time, and create delays.  She said some other communities that take credit cards at the town hall have taken that option off the website.  Bolouk added two computers and an ATM were available in town hall for residents to use for bill pay.

McBride questioned whether building permits could be requested online, and Hickey said additional online services were being explored.

“It’s a work in progress, and, as with any new product, there will be bumps along the way,” Bolouk said.

The new offerings are available on the town’s website under the online services tab.