Archive for Wednesday, December 27, 2006

School district explores option of paying fees by credit card

December 27, 2006

It's possible the Basehor-Linwood school district will begin to accept credit and debit card payments.

But before board members make a decision on the issue, they want to determine whether parents would take advantage of the new payment option. And board members want information about how other school districts handle credit and debit card payments.

One sticking point is fees the district must pay to offer credit and debit card payments.

At the board's meeting two weeks ago, board president Randy Cunningham said school secretaries have been asking when they would be able to allow parents to pay for enrollment and lunch expenses with a debit or credit card.

In a letter, Dean Weddum, branch president of Community National Bank, said card processors for each of the five school buildings would cost $585 each, for a total of $2,925.

Some board members were surprised about the cost of the processors alone.

"I question that we're going to lose $3,000," Cunningham said. "How is that going to benefit us? I just don't understand how it helps."

Fees also would be assessed for each transaction and would vary, depending on the type of card used.

Debit cards would carry a fee of 1.49 percent of the amount of the transaction plus 25 cents per transaction. For example, 1.49 percent of a $20 purchase would be 30 cents. With the 25-cent transaction fee, the school would pay a 55-cent fee for that particular transaction.

Credit cards would have a little higher fees -- 1.84 percent of the amount of the transaction plus a 25-cent transaction fee.

Board members weighed the pros and cons of the issue, and some appeared opposed to offering debit and credit card payment service because of the cost.

"In the retail world everybody expects to pay these fees, but in the retail world, prices are bumped up to pay for the fees," vice president Patrick Jeannin said. "I would hate to increase the cost of lunch to cover credit card fees."

"I have an issue with the fees," Cunningham said.

Others seemed to remain in favor of the service despite the fees.

"I see it as a customer service for our district," board member Dayna Miller said.

"Debit and credit cards are the way more and more people are conducting business these days," board member Kerry Mueller said.

Board members also asked administrators whether they believed parents and students would utilize the service and if it would benefit the district.

"I probably have about 50 percent of parents in the Virtual School ask for credit or debit," said Brenda DeGroot, director of the Virtual School. "I probably would get more money upfront and not have to hunt people down if I had the option of credit or debit cards."

The board agreed to explore the option further by asking parents if they would use the service possibly through a joint survey in the elementary schools. Information from other districts who offer the service will also be collected.

"Perhaps this is a business decision that we would look into implementing this summer rather than immediate implementation," Jeannin said. "What we have here is a fee schedule, what I don't know is how many students would utilize this service. If it's a small percentage, maybe this is not good. That would alleviate some of this discussion -- find out if parents would use this."

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