In putting together the budget passed Monday night, Independence city staff figured in anticipated recovered costs from adjusting the city's schedule of fees.
The biggest adjustment is an addition that has caused much social media consternation – a convenience fee for online bill payments. For utility bill payments, it will $4.95 per transaction for credit/debit card or eCheck payments made on the utility billing website or automated call line (maximum transaction of $750). For non-utility bills such as business licenses, permits or court payments, the fees are 2.95 percent per transaction for credit/debit card payments and $0.50 for eCheck payments (maximum transaction of $15,000).
The council unanimously passed the new fees, which take effect July 1.
“One of the costs the city has been incurring for many years is credit card processing fees,” City Manager Zach Walker said to the council before the vote, explaining that beforehand all taxpayers had been subsidizing the credit card fees (assessed by payment provider) for the convenience of fellow taxpayers who chose those payment methods, and such fees are similar to what one pays when buying concert or game tickets online with a credit card.
Mark Bowman, the city's IT director, said the convenience fees cover the service fees charged by the payment provider. By state law, the city cannot make a profit off city service fees, and Bowman estimates the city has paid about $500,000 in credit card processing fees for a few years now.
The city estimates that with the new convenience fees and other fee adjustments, the city will recover about $577,500. Changes to the drop-off depot fees, if approved, will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2019.
The convenience fee does not apply to mail-in payments or any form of walk-in payment, and utility customers who have signed up for the automated bank draft payments will not be charged.
REZONINGS: A zoning change the council approved Monday involved the former GEHA building off U.S. 24 and the former GEHA employee parking lot across Atherton Street to the north.
The former change, from neighborhood commercial to service commercial, had been unanimously recommended by the Planning Commission and by city staff. The second change, from office-residential to industrial, allows for training for a truck-driver training school on the site and temporary storage of National Guard vehicles. The Planning Commission had not recommended the change, with a 2-2 split and two members absent, and staff said it envisions lighter uses for the site.
The truck driving school, run by Warner Enterprises, plans to use space in the GEHA building, as well the National Guard and possibly a gym.
A couple dozen nearby residents had attended Monday's meeting in opposition to the latter rezoning, and two expressed concerns that the trucks would harm quality of life in the adjacent neighborhood and adversely affect U.S. 24 traffic.
GEHA has owned the sites since the company moved to the Hartman Heritage Center commercial district a couple years ago.