By David F. Rooney
In a move strongly criticized by one dissident Councillor, City Council has decided it should prevent citizens from exercising their credit cards when they want to pay their property taxes or utility bills.
“We say we want to be Hockeyville but we’re acting more like Smallville,” said Councillor Phil Welock as he and Steve Bender opposed a move by Councillors Chris Johnston, Tony Scarcella, Antoinette Halberstadt and Mayor David Raven to stop people from using credit cards to pay those kinds of bills.
Credit cards will still be accepted at the Community Centre and the Aquatic Centre so the loss of convenience will not be absolute.
“People just need to budget better,” Johnston said during Council’s regular sitting as a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday. The CoW meetings permit Councillors to discuss major issues and take the first steps towards formal adoption of various motions and recommendations during an official Council meeting. This means that while Council really does want to do away with credit card payments it can still change its mind if the issue brings the political waters to a boil.
This was not a particularly easy call to make. Even those Councillors opposed to credit card payments noted that they truly are a convenience for many people.
The real question, however, is how much money should the City shell out to ensure that kind of convenience?
Finance Director Graham Inglis told the CoW that the City currently pays about $33,000 a year in credit-card transaction fees and he projected that those payments could balloon to $125,000 per year in 2014.
If the public accepts this decision and doesn’t exert enough pressure on Council to force it to change it’s collective mind the ban on credit card payments for property taxes and utility bills will be passed at next Tuesday’s formal Council meeting. If that happens it will be effective this tax year.
So, will that be cash or cheque this year?