By Anthony Scott
Killeen Daily Herald
Killeen residents who choose to use credit cards to pay city fees and fines will soon be charged an additional fee.
The additional cost to residents was approved Tuesday evening by the City Council at its regular meeting. The money brought in will offset credit card merchant fees that have been eating away at the city's coffers.
The change will take effect after official publication of the new policy.
"We have been discussing this for quite a while now and the city of Killeen has never assessed any type of processing fees and we looked to our sister cities to see what they were doing and looked at a lot of legalities as far as the Texas local government codes," said Barbara Gonzales, city finance director.
Last year about $19.7 million was processed in credit card payments for municipal court, water bills and various city charges. About $495,000 was assessed in total merchant fees to the city, Gonzales said.
In the past, the city has never charged a fee to recover the cost of merchant service fees. The average transaction last year was about $81, which cost the city about $2 each time.
The city is bound by law to assess a fee in this case that will recover no more than what it cost to process credit cards, so it is charging $2 fees for each transaction more than $40. The charges under $40 will be assessed a separate service fee of 5 percent of the amount paid, Gonzales said.
Council members approved the fees by a 6-1 vote; Councilman Billy Workman dissented.
"First of all we've increased the price of water, we've raised the taxes on the roads and we don't have the demographics in the city where we have people with large incomes," Workman said. "The majority are middle and low income and it's going to be a burden."
Workman said he spoke with constituents and felt that the risk of crime increases if senior citizens who don't want to pay flock to one place to pay with cash or check.
"They go there and pay that and get in line," he said. "We have alerted all the crooks out there. We have alerted them that these senior citizens are going to line up."
In other business, the council approved rezoning two properties to its new Business 3-A designation, allowing them to sell alcohol.
One of the locations could be the site of the first liquor store in Killeen since residents voted to allow liquor sales in the Nov. 2 by a 2-to-1 margin. Council officially created the special business and liquor sales zoning designation at a Dec. 28 meeting.
The council also approved a $450,330 contract to Mitchell and Associates for engineering services on an Elms Road extension project. Along with five other road projects, the extension required a $30 million road bond largely credited as the reason for a 4-cent tax hike this 2010-11 fiscal year.
Contact Anthony Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.