Brookfielders may be able to pay bills, fines online by September

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By BOB UPHUES

Brookfield residents tired of writing checks to pay water/sewer bills, parking tickets and the like may be able to pay village bills and fees online by September. At its meeting July 24, trustees are expected to approve implementing E-Pay, an electronic bill payment system available through the Office of the Illinois State Treasurer.

Residents will be able to access the online bill payment site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A link from the village's Web site (www.villageofbrookfield.com) will redirect residents to the E-Pay site, or residents can access the E-Pay site directly at www.illinoisepay.com.

Among the types of payments Brookfield residents might be able to make through the E-Pay site are water bills, parking tickets, special assessments and violation notices. Payments can be made using Master Card, American Express or Discover cards. A convenience fee, which is based on the size of the payment (the fee for a $25 payment is $1, while the fee on a $300 payment is $8.75, for example) is charged for each transaction.

Because the Village of Brookfield will not be absorbing the fee, Visa will not participate in the program. In addition to credit cards, residents will be able to use e-checks to pay the bills and fees.

Village Manager Riccardo Ginex said that allowing residents the option of paying online will not only be a convenience for them, but could help cut down on the amount of paperwork village staff handles. Currently bill and fee payments to the village can be done only through check or cash.

"Today alone we had stacks of checks this big," said Ginex at the July 10 meeting of the village board's Committee of the Whole, indicating a stack of water bill payments three inches thick with his fingers. "It takes staff hours to get through those."

Ginex suggested that the village could also purchase a credit card reader for residents who walk into village hall to make payments. The reader would cost the village $515 and a convenience fee of 2 percent would be added to each transaction. The village's online E-Pay site will be funded through the convenience fees.

The benefit to the village is that payments are made directly into village accounts and the program entails no start-up costs or equipment to implement. When the board OKs going with the E-Pay system next week, Ginex said that the village could begin offering the online payments option to residents by as early as September.

Using the E-Pay system is very straightforward. Once redirected to the E-Pay site, residents will be shepherded through the payment process. At the end of the process, residents will receive confirmation that the payment was accepted or denied. A follow-up e-mail will be sent from the treasurer's office to the resident for their records.

The Village of Riverside has allowed its residents to pay water bills and parking tickets online through the E-Pay system since 2004. To date, according to Finance Director Kevin Wachtel, the village has collected $76,600 in bills and fine payments through 540 E-Pay transactions. The bulk of Riverside's credit card payments come from walk-ins at village hall. Riverside has logged some 3,000 in-house credit card transactions.

Residents of Riverside are able to use Visa when making their payments since the village does not pass the convenience fee on to residents. Between E-Pay fees and credit card fees from in-house transactions, Riverside has had to absorb roughly $8,000 in convenience fees to provide that service.

Riverside residents wishing to use that village's E-Pay service can do so by logging onto the Riverside Web site (http://riverside.il.us) and clicking the "online bill pay" link on the right hand side of the page.

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