Suamico discusses whether to take over first installment tax collections
By Kevin Boneske
SUAMICO – Following lengthy discussion April 5 the village board held off taking action on how to handle first installment property tax collections for the 2021 tax year.
Board members discussed whether the village should collect the first installment tax collections or enter into an agreement with the Brown County treasurer’s office for it to continue to handle them, but begin to charge the village a fee per parcel.
County Treasurer Paul Zeller initially announced plans to discontinue the treasurer office’s past practice of collecting first installment tax collections for municipalities, which could be required under state law to provide that service themselves, starting with property taxes for 2021 payable in 2022.
However, in response to feedback he received from municipalities objecting to having to collect the first installment or full payment of property taxes, Zeller said he put together what he called a “compromise” for the county treasurer’s office to continue those collections, but charge $1.60 per parcel for doing so.
Though the county treasurer would have no obligation under state law to collect first installment payments, for property owners making two payments, the county would still collect the second installments.
A resolution drafted by the treasurer’s office and backed April 1 by the county’s Administration Committee would continue those first payment collections for towns and villages in the county collected the previous tax year, but no longer do so for the City of De Pere, with the fee included.
The resolution will be considered for final approval March 21 by the county board.
Suamico Finance Director Jessica Legois said it would cost the village approximately $9,430 a year for the county to continue first installment collections with the fee called for in the resolution, based on the number of parcels in Suamico for 2020.
“Last year, we had 5,894 parcels in total,” she said.
Legois said it’s difficult at this point to determine an exact cost for the village to collect first installment payments itself, because of having trouble getting numbers from LandNav, the software provider for collecting taxes.
However, she said she was able to participate in a demonstration of the LandNav software with other municipalities and discovered the following:
• In addition to the $ 1,500 annual license fee, there will be additional fees for initial setup, training and support costs, unless the county chooses to subsidize these costs.
• LandNav software does not integrate with the village’s financial system (Clarity), so there will either be duplicate receipting in LandNav’s system and Suamico’s system, or the village will have to pay Clarity and/or LandNav for programming to develop the integration.
• LandNav software does not integrate with Suamico’s existing credit card processors (AllPaid and Stripe). The village would be required to purchase the credit card machine from the LandNav credit card processor and to use that for tax payments. This would mean placing a third credit card machine at the front counter or reviewing Suamico’s contracts with AllPaid and Stripe to see if the village can move to the LandNav processor as its primary processing vendor.
• Initial staff training will be provided in-person or virtually as a group with other municipalities. However, the training will be an overview of system capabilities. It will not be training that will allow staff to begin processing tax collections the next day. The village will still have to develop its own processes and train staff internally.
• LandNav also recommends the purchase and use of a bar code scanner to eliminate keying errors. The scanner would cost around $20 to $25.
Legois, who characterized Suamico’s possible takeover of collecting first installment payments as “becoming a much more dubious and expensive task than originally anticipated,” said the village could also face additional bank fees with a charge of around 20 cents per check processed.
“With the number of parcels that we have, that would be about $1,200 per year in bank fees,” she said.
In addition, Legois said the village would also need information technology equipment and whatever office equipment is necessary to set up a receipting station.
“I think it would be reasonable to assume that we would have, at least in the first year, some overtime or upfront costs to get started,” she said. “That’s the experience that Howard had, and I expect we would have that as well.”
It was noted during the board meeting the City of Green Bay and the villages of Howard and Denmark were the three county municipalities handling first installment payments for the 2020 tax year.
Legois said Suamico didn’t budget any money for 2021 to either take over the first installment collections or pay the county to continue those collections.
Because the village has until after the end of April to decide what it wants to about the collections for the 2021 tax year, Legois said Suamico’s board could either wait until the county board considers the resolution April 21 or decide to take over handling first installment payments.
She said the village clerk’s staff would handle property tax collections, should Suamico take over receiving first installments, and the current clerk, Bonnie Swan, is retiring April 30.
“I would feel better having somebody solid in that position before taking over tax collections,” Legois said. “It can certainly be done, and it will have to be done, if the county decides or the board decides that we need to do that.”
Village Administrator Alex Kaker said the proposed resolution would only cover one year of tax collections.
“Either (the county) could offer it again or they couldn’t,” he said. “It’s really up for our elected (county) treasurer to make that decision.”
Trustee Dan Roddan, who has been critical of Zeller seeking to have municipalities take over first installment collections, questioned the need for the county treasurer to charge a per-parcel fee.
“We have a treasurer that won’t respond to us, won’t provide us information regarding where the current dollars that our taxpayers pay (are going) to pay for these services,” Roddan said. “He won’t respond to where those dollars are going.”
Kaker said the village won’t know whether it could continue to have the treasurer’s office handle first installment payments until the county board considers the resolution April 21.
Legois said there are more significant one-time costs in the village handling first installment payments.
“I think the larger question is going to be what are the ongoing costs of this,” she said. “The one-time costs are the initial installation of software and then all of the duplicate equipment for the second receipting station…”
Zeller said the county will no longer be using banks to collect property taxes for the municipalities, and as a result, he expects the treasurer’s office would have around 12,775 additional parcels for which it would be collecting first installment payments.
The resolution also calls for changing the treasurer’s office staffing for tax collection help by switching a limited term employee (LTE) from a full-time equivalent (FTE) of .6 at $12.50 per hour for 1,260 hours to an LTE with an FTE of 1.21 at $15 per hour for 2,520 hours.
When factoring in $24,270 projected in revenue from parcel fees, the treasurer’s office estimates there would be no impact on its annual budget.
Trustee Sky Van Rossum said the Village of Suamico and as many municipalities as possible should be on record in support of paying the $1.60 per parcel to continue having the county treasurer’s office handle first installment collections.
“(The county) can explain to the taxpayers where all the rest of the money is going, while at the same time we need to start exploring this very seriously internally and get a real full accounting for costs and real dollars on what this is going to cost us,” Van Rossum said. “In my opinion, we need to start planning to manage this ourselves, while at the same time putting as much pressure (as we can) on the county board to accept this $1.60 (per-parcel fee) over the interim.”