Sedgwick County residents who use plastic to pay taxes cost the county more than $1 million in fees last year.
Credit card companies charge the county a fee for each transaction.
Now, county commissioners are considering passing on the fee — an average of $8 per transaction — to residents who use a credit card or debit card to pay property tax or motor vehicle tax payments. The fee also would apply to any county payment made over the Internet using a credit card, debit card or electronic check.
Last year, the county handled 129,960 credit card payments, the overwhelming majority at tag offices. Those payments totaled $61.3 million, and the county paid credit card companies such as Visa and MasterCard just more than $1 million.
The average transaction was $484; the average transaction fee charged to the county by credit card companies was $8.
The county's treasurer, Linda Kizzire, is torn about whether to charge customers a fee.
Chief financial officer Chris Chronis is opposed to the idea.
"Credit card surcharges are simply a cost of doing business," Chronis said. "I think it would be bad policy and bad customer service to impose a fee on our customers."
Credit card transactions are preferable because the county doesn't have to worry about bad checks or employees helping themselves to cash, Chronis said.
Making people pay a fee, he said, would be a disincentive for people to pay by credit card.
"We also believe that some of these constituents would have been unable to pay us had they been restricted to cash," Chronis said in an e-mail to commissioners and other county leaders.
Credit cards help the county's cash flow, he said, because payments by plastic are processed within two business days. Payments by check take three or four days.
Johnson County stopped taking Visa cards in June at its motor vehicle offices. It said in a news release then that its motor vehicle division had been approved for Visa's tax payment program in March. Under that program, the county could charge a convenience fee for various types of tax payments, including income, business, sales, real estate and other property taxes. Visa later decided that it did not consider personal property tax collected on vehicles as "other" property taxes.
Johnson County's motor vehicle offices still take MasterCard and Discover.
Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan plans to talk to commissioners about whether they think a fee is justified.
Commissioner Jim Skelton made a recommendation earlier this year that the county look into a convenience fee as a way to offset its expenses.
Kizzire said she followed through with his request but isn't sure where she falls on a decision.
"On one hand, I see that it would be a million dollars that Sedgwick County could use to fund other necessary items," she said. But on the other hand, she wonders if some people wouldn't pay their taxes if they couldn't pay on credit.