South River rethinks credit card fees on utility and tax bills


SOUTH RIVER — The Borough Council spent much of the Jan. 12 meeting rethinking some decisions of the past.

The council had decided when it was underDemocraticcontroltoplacea3percent surcharge on credit card payments for utility and tax bills processed through the borough’s online portal. In addition, South River stopped accepting credit cards at the borough payment window.

The surcharge went into effect Nov. 1 as a cost-saving move to offset the transaction fees paid by the borough for credit card payments.

The discontinuation of in-person credit card payments went into effect Jan. 16 — two weeks after the Republicans took control of the council.

At the Jan. 12 meeting, Business Administrator Frederick Carr reminded the council of the upcoming change. Council President Jim Hutchison voiced his concern that residents could be caught offguard and unable to pay their bills. He asked if there were any alternatives and whether an in-person kiosk could be set up for people to make payments.

Carr responded that borough officials have had a number of discussions on the issue and have sought to find solutions, but he said most towns do not accept credit cards for these types of payments.

“There are many municipalities that don’t take credit cards,” he said, stressing that the borough is looking to save money.

On a $10,000 tax bill, the borough loses $300 in fees if a surcharge is not tacked on, Carr said as an example.

He said the borough could continue accepting credit cards, but “we just have to understand what it’s costing us to do it.” He said the credit card fee is equivalent to about 2 cents on the tax rate.

Carr said after the meeting that residents have complained about the surcharge.

“Yes, nobody wants to pay a fee. They would rather someone else pay it,” he said.

The council also discussed the fate of two programs that have become a concern for borough business owners.

One program in the works is Swipe4TheKids, an opt-in initiative where businesses contribute a portion of their credit-card sales to an account that would be used for projects benefiting children in the community. Then-Councilman Peter Guindi proposed the program last year.

The program’s organizers are expected to contact retailers to determine interest.

However, the fate of Shop South River, an effort spearheaded by former Council President Thomas Roselli, is less clear. The borough does not have the $5,000 and 15 committed businesses that are necessary to move forward with the program.

Hutchison said businesses that originally committed may have closed over the past couple years. He asked to see a current list of participating businesses at the next meeting.