At Nov. 10 and 17 work sessions, Corry City Council members discussed the benefits and drawbacks of a new payment portal method for city residents.
At Monday’s meeting, Council approved the new system in a 3-2 vote, councilmen Fike, Roche and Sproveri voting for, and Mayor Baker and Councilwoman Lindstrom voting against.
A portal called Invoice Cloud is hosted by Muni-Link. The system is currently in use by National Fuel.
City residents would be able to make payments for their water, sewer and trash bills through Invoice Cloud.
“Muni-Link has partnered with Invoice Cloud to bring additional features to customers, making payments easier for both the customer and city staff,” City Administrator Joanne Smith.
Smith explained the seven-step process of taking payments at the city office whether the payment is made through credit card, electronic bank transfer (ACH) or check.
“This is done manually every day by staff. If we went with Invoice Cloud, all that would be done automatically through the system,” Smith explained. “Right now, a specific person does it. If that person's on vacation, someone else has to be trained how to do it.”
Smith also explained that, due to human error, sometimes steps are missed.
“In the past we have had instances where one of the steps is missed and found a few days or a month later,” she said. “The customer thought they made a payment, but we didn't download things correctly. So [going with Invoice Cloud] would be a huge benefit for our office staff.”
Smith also outlined the benefits to the customer in that they have more control, they can set up auto-payments, pay by text, Venmo, Apple and Google Pay or Pay Pal, as well as set up reminders. Customers would also see payment status immediately.
Cost to the city would be about $496 per month. The ACH fee is $0.95 per transaction, online bank direct transaction would run $.0.50 per transaction, and paperless billing would cost about $66 per month. Should the city choose not to absorb the ACH and online bank fees, the cost to the city would be only $66 per month.
Benefits to the city include increased efficiency in the system with fewer possibility of errors. Time saved would allow the clerk to focus on refunds, collections and assisting with balancing of bank reconciliations, among other duties.
At Monday’s meeting, Lindstrom said the contract is for five years, but the company is willing to rewrite it for four.
City Controller Buzz Hammond asked if the company will self-update its software.
Smith answered that the system will automatically update to the newest available options for customers.
“We've done a lot of office automation in the last few years and it's paid off,” said Roche. “I think it's just another thing that’ll save time and money.”
Although Council approved the new bill payment method, the city will still accept traditional forms of payment including cash and personal checks.
Smith said implementing the new system will take a little time.
“About one or two months of prepping until we have a go live date,” she said.