Water bill convenience fees to take effect in Rockford

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ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) -- City leaders hope these new convenience fees will help convince Rockford residents to go digital when it comes to paying garbage and water bills.

The convenience fee proposal passed at Monday's Rockford City Council meeting is aimed at getting residents to soon sign up for automatic bill payment withdrawals and electronic billing. City financial experts say the current methods for paying over the phone or paying online are costing the city extra money.

Rockford Finance Director Carrie Hagerty says that Rockford is trying to make things easier that will also save the city money. "The pay by phone system that the city currently utilizes is a service provided through our banking relationship, The way that service is billed, we pay per minute. For every call or call in, it will cost the city more money to process that payment," said Hagerty.

Many residents reached out to their alders, voicing their opinions on these fees. Some opponents of the proposal are comparing this to an extra tax.

First Ward Alderperson Tim Durkee said, "The typical citizen, to pay a bill and we in a sense tax them, to pay a bill. I know that's sort of re-framing it but it's really what we are doing."

Even though there will be extra fees, those in favor of the proposal say these new methods are nothing city residents can't handle.

Fifth ward alderperson Venita Hervey said, "Rockford has the highest tax rate in the region. It's killing us, it's killing our livability and our likability. If people don't have a checking account, they can still pay free at the window, like they've always done. What we're doing is eliminating those types of payment methods that cost the city money."

Going into the future, city leaders remind residents that, even though there are fees for some methods, there are ways to work around those fees. "It's time for citizens to understand that there are several ways to receive a no fee or charge on your bill," said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara.

The City of Rockford will start charging the convenience fees on May 15, $3 per transaction for one-time payments will be charged over the phone, and a $2 fee for one-time payments online.

There will also be a $2 monthly fee to defray the cost of postage for those who are still getting paper bills mailed to their home.