Already facing increases in water rates and parking permit fees, Forest Park residents who use Illinois ePay to pay those bills online will have to start paying for the service.
In approving a merchant application and agreement with JetPay Payment Services, the new Illinois ePay payment processor, the Village Council on June 25 shifted payment of the processing fee for such transactions from the village to the individual making the payment. The village had been absorbing the processing fee, which they estimate to be 2 to 3 percent per transaction.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian said the move is the latest in a series designed to address a budget shortfall estimated to be $1 million for fiscal year 2019, which runs from May 1 to April 30, 2019. Other fee increases village officials have approved since November include parking tickets, garbage pickup and ambulance service. Village officials also are considering instituting a sewer charge. The village had a deficit of $1.6 million in fiscal 2018, which ended April 30.
Illinois ePay is the credit card and electronic check processing service offered by the state treasurer’s office to local and state governments, allowing them to provide online payment options. Gillian said Forest Park has used Illinois ePay for “a long time.”
In 2017, the state treasurer’s office made the decision to change to JetPay from Forte, its predecessor, requiring participating governments to enter separate contracts with JetPay and leading to the village council action on June 25.
Village Finance Director Leticia Olmsted said the village had the option of shifting the convenience fee to payees under Forte but chose not to, although the possibility was considered during budget discussions in recent years.
At the June 25 meeting, Commissioner Tom Mannix stressed that the convenience fee applies only to residents who use Illinois ePay to make payments to the village and not to those who pay by check or with cash by mail or in-person at Village Hall. Olmsted noted residents using a credit card to make such payments already pay a convenience fee.
“Convenience fees are just that,” Mayor Anthony Calderone said. “People can still pay their bills by check or with cash to avoid paying the convenience fee if paying by credit card.
“It is unfair for the village to subsidize the costs associated with paying by credit and absorbing these fees when those who do not pay by credit do not receive this benefit.”
Gillian estimated the move would save the village between $70,000 and $80,000 annually.
Olmsted said village residents using Illinois ePay will see a different website offering different features when they next log in to the program, which is expected to change July 2. According to a press release from the state treasurer’s office, those features include recurring bill pay, e-bill, e-receipts, mobile wallet and “more contemporary payment options.”
The state treasurer’s office agreement with JetPay is for an initial term of six years with four one-year renewal options. Approximately 600 governments participate in the ePay program with card processing volumes expected to exceed $600 million annually. JetPay officials said in a press release that they would work through their partnership with the ePay program to expand services and add additional government entities throughout Illinois during the term of the agreement.