Constitutional Corner

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Barbara Carraway pic resizedBy BARBARA CARRAWAY

Chesapeake City Treasurer

As City Treasurer, the primary responsibility of my office is to collect all taxes and fees that are due the City.  In this article, I thought it would be interesting to share how payments are processed, discuss our various payment methods, and provide information regarding electronic payments which helps save tax dollars.

Your Treasurer’s office accepts payments in person, by drop box, mail and online. Payments received in the mail postmarked on or before the due date, are considered to be paid on time. If a due date falls on a week-end or holiday, the next business day becomes the due date.  Walk-in payments may be made via credit card, check, cash, money order, or debit card.  If you use the Treasurer’s online payment gateway, you will be able to register, and then view all of your bills that are due and just click on the ones you wish to pay. For online payments, you may choose to use our e-check system or pay with a credit card.

The Treasurer’s office has four local drop box locations for the convenience of citizens who choose to drop off payments.  These drop boxes are used quite frequently and emptied each morning.  Due to high volume on the June 5th deadline, they are emptied throughout the day.  Any payment dropped in the drop box prior to 8:00am on June 6th is considered paid on time.  Unfortunately, this method requires hiring temporary help to open and prep the large volume of mail for payment processing.

Checks received in the office are no longer deposited into the bank.  Instead, checks are imaged and a file is submitted to the bank. This process eliminates any float time on a check.  Payment is posted to the City’s account the same day the bank receives the file.  An electronic file is processed by the bank before checks are actually received at the bank.   This allows the City to have use of the funds quicker than when checks are physically deposited. By imaging the checks, we have a copy of each check available to us should a question arise.  This has proven very valuable because it reduces the time required to research taxpayers’ questions on their payments.

The City utilizes a lock box which allows the Treasurer’s office to receive a file from the financial institution and electronically post payments to the taxpayers’ accounts.  The lockbox allows the Treasurer to process a large volume of payments efficiently at minimal cost.  The remittance portion of the tax bill and the check are scanned during processing of the payment which allows us to review it should a question come up regarding the payment.  Another advantage to the lockbox is the Treasurer’s staff can correct information online which may be causing the system to reject the payment. This allows the payment to be posted to taxpayers’ accounts electronically.

One of our biggest payment processing challenges is due to errors associated with the use of taxpayers’ bank bill pay systems.  If you are using this method to pay your tax bills, the payments should be set up to be paid at least seven days before the due date.  The Treasurer’s office frequently receives payments from these banks after the due date.

Here are some common errors that result in bill pay payments being rejected:   using the vehicle title number instead of the tax bill number, using the real estate property control number instead of the bill number, water bill number instead of tax bill numbers, and lastly wrong addresses are put in the system when the payment is being set up by the taxpayer.  When incorrect information is indicated, the payment is kicked back to your bill pay vendor and a paper check is mailed to the Treasurer’s office.  These checks must be researched for the correct bill number and processed manually.  On June 3rd, a total of 1,700 checks with incorrect billing information were received by the Treasurer’s office.  Each check required research to locate correct information which significantly slowed payment processing.  When using your bank’s bill pay system to pay your tax bills or miscellaneous invoices due the City, please indicate the tax or invoice bill number as the reference number.  When the bill number is used, it will allow the Treasurer’s office to receive an electronic file which automatically posts to the appropriate bill.  Also, be sure to use P.O. Box 16495, Chesapeake, Virginia 23328, as the Treasurer’s office mailing address when inputting our information into your bank’s bill pay system.

The last method of payment is an automatic debit program, EasyPay.  This allows a person to have a bank account automatically debited for real estate and stormwater payments.  This is a great tool to budget for real estate tax payments.  EasyPay can be set up in either of two ways. Payments will be debited from your bank account on the quarterly due dates or in smaller increments ten months out of the year.  To utilize EasyPay, a person must complete an EasyPay application and provide a canceled check.  The Authorization Agreement Form can be found on the Treasurer’s website at www.cityofchesapeake.net/treasurer.  Just click on the “Payments” link on the left-hand side of the screen, then “Easy Pay”.  It is important to remember to notify the Treasurer’s office in writing when you change your bank account number.  Notification can be made at paytax@cityofchesapeake.net.  In the subject line, simply indicate EasyPay.

When you need information for your state and federal income tax returns, you can obtain a report online at the Treasurer’s website that will list both real estate and personal property taxes paid for the calendar year.

I am looking at improvements to alleviate the costs of mailing bills and streamlining the payment processes. Some ideas are including stormwater fee payments in mortgage company escrow payments for those with mortgages on their property, allowing citizens to choose to receive tax bills electronically, and allowing citizens to change their mailing addresses electronically. I am proud to let you know that your Treasurer’s office is one of the leaders in payment automation in the Commonwealth.

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