by Colin Smith
Surcharges on credit card payments to the Town of Morinville will be eliminated for this year following approval of a measure introduced at Tuesday’s council meeting.
All three readings of a bylaw to amend the town’s 2023 Fees and Charges Bylaw were passed at the meeting.
The surcharge was a new fee for the use of credit cards when paying for town services that was included in the 2023 Fees and Charges Bylaw, adopted in December.
The change will see the town reverting to 2022 payment procedures, in which credit cards were accepted without a surcharge for all payments to the town except taxes.
“The intent of it was to ensure that where credit card usage was at the discretion of the resident, we were able to able to recoup the cost of processing fees,” Financial Services manager Travis Nosko said of the surcharge.
“It was never our intent with the surcharge to generate revenue for the municipality,” he stated. “Nor did we want to see residents left without another option than credit cards.”
But within a few days of the surcharge being instituted, it was realized that in some circumstances, the registration software used at the Morinville Leisure Centre and Morinville Community Cultural Centre provided no other payment option but credit card use.
“We came to the conclusion that for now, the best recourse is to remove the surcharge in order to ensure residents are not required to be out that money when booking services,” said Nosko.
One result of dropping the surcharge will be that payment of property taxes is no longer a possibility.
Nosko explained that the cost of credit card processing fees on property tax amounts was not something the town is willing to cover, as compared to the smaller costs for MLC and MCCC fees.
Other measures for dealing with credit card service fee charges are now being examined.
Residents who have already paid the surcharge will be eligible for refunds or account credits.
“Just so council knows, we are actively looking to connect with anybody who has incurred a surcharge to make sure we refund or put a credit, whichever the individual requests,” said Nosko.
Mayor Simon Boersma credited the administration with dealing with the situation promptly after it had been recognized.
“I appreciate the speed at which administration worked in order to ensure residents are looked after,” he said.
The motion for the third reading was proposed by Councillor Scott Richardson.
“I think that the intent of this bylaw was good,” he said. “But obviously, there were unintended consequences.”
Richardson suggested that if measures for credit card payments for property taxes were brought forward in the future, the community would need to be better informed.
“A lot of people thought we were generating revenue,” he said. “Just making sure the message is clear would be better.”
The third reading of the amending bylaw passed unanimously.