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Bedford to explore credit card payments for property taxes

BEDFORD – Councilors gave the go ahead Wednesday for the Tax Collector and Town Manager to explore the possibility of accepting credit and debit cards for property tax payments.

Tax Collector Crystal Dionne said the town had looked into accepting credit and debit cards several years ago, but fees to the town for the transactions made it cost-prohibitive.

That has changed somewhat, Dionne said, and she asked the council to approve further investigation of the issue.

"There are a handful of municipalities that accept credit card payments for smaller items," Dionne said in a telephone interview. "But very few accept them for payment of property taxes just because of the cost involved."

Dionne said the town would incur fees from credit card companies and would likely have to pass those on to taxpayers.

"We really have no mechanism to absorb those costs," she said. "We're talking about millions of dollars in taxes."

According to Dionne, the town already has money in the budget for a special module for its software program, which was part of a software package paid for in 2009.

The module would also allow residents to look at their tax bill online, Dionne said, which would be a benefit even if the council opts not to move toward credit card payments.

"I do see a benefit in still pursuing that module," she said.

"We're not asking for additional funds," Dionne told the council, noting that the $6,000 for the software module won't be spent until the council makes a final decision.

Meanwhile, Dionne said she will get proposals from different vendors to determine exactly how much in fees taxpayers can expect to spend for the service.

"I think it makes a lot of sense that we go ahead and pursue this," said Councilor Norm Longval.

Councilor Ken Peterson said he could see the advantage to accepting credit and debit cards, but wondered what the negatives would be for the town, if any.

"I'm actually pleased to see this come forward," said Vice Chairman Chris Bandazian. "It comes down to the merchant fees and how those get handled."

Dionne made it clear that she was merely seeking authority from the council to investigate the issue, and that she was not asking for a final decision on whether the town will accept the new form of payment.

"This is really the first step," Dionne said. "We still have a lot to learn in this process."

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