Government

Town Looks to Improve Tax Collection With New Software

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Property owners will able to pay their taxes online using a credit or debit card, or an eCheck. Credits: Metro Creative Connection
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MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The town of Carmel has entered into a new software licensing agreement that it hopes will improve its tax-collection process and allow taxpayers to use credit and debit cards both online and at the tax receiver’s office.

The contract with the municipal software company Business Automation Services Inc. (BAS) was recommended by the town’s receiver of taxes, Kathleen Kraus, and approved by the Town Board last month.

“We have been with our current vendor for many years, but the original owner sold the company a few years back,” Kraus told the Town Board. “The customer service and the response time have dramatically declined. Each year for the past five years it has gotten progressively worse, which has affected the work we do in my office. There have been problems with loading the tax rolls, response time. I have been delayed in being able to accept payments.”

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Kraus said her office looked at a number of other municipal software companies before choosing BAS.

“BAS has always been one of the better companies in this line of work,” Kraus said. “It is a New York-based company. They have over 800 municipal customers throughout New York State. They have a high level of customer service and a quick response time.”

The first-year cost of the new software is $27,850 with a subsequent annual cost not to exceed $5,100 for maintenance, support and processing services, according to the contract.

Kraus said the town clerk’s office has been using BAS for some time and the town of Southeast started using BAS in January. She said she sat in with the Southeast receiver of taxes to observe and learn the BAS software.

“[Southeast is] the prototype for Carmel because they are on the same schedules,” Kraus said.

The program will allow the town to receive taxes via credit and debit card payments both online and at Kraus’s office. Kraus said the Southeast tax receiver said the credit card acceptance protocol has been seamless and they reported no issues.

“The Putnam Valley School District has also been using the program and has been very happy with it,” Kraus said. “I think it’s a good fit; we looked at a few others...but I believe this is the best one.”

Kraus said the fee charged for using a credit card (MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover) is 2.45 percent of the resident’s tax bill. A debit card carries a flat fee of $3.95, and the flat fee for an eCheck is $1.75.

Town Comptroller Mary Ann Maxwell said that the town’s building department is also looking into adopting BAS software.

“If [the building department and receiver of taxes] are both on the same software, it will be more efficient,” Maxwell said. “The town clerk will also start accepting credit and debit cards in her office. There will be a separate link on the website so if people want to pay for something like a dog license, the link will bring them right to this software.”

The town will seek to look for new software for its water billing, but Maxwell said it will likely wait until the townwide replacement of water meters is complete. The town is currently installing water meters that can relay information via radio frequency back to Town Hall, so customers no longer have to fill out cards and mail them in.

“We would probably go with the same company [for water billing] because [Kraus] is accepting those payments right now and it would just make sense,” Maxwell said.

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