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Friday, December 13th, 2013

Tax bills outsourced starting in 2014

By Shelley Grieshop
CELINA - Officials on Thursday penned an agreement to outsource the county's property tax billing process - a move that could save taxpayers thousands of dollars.
SmartBill of Newark will begin in February handling the labor, supplies, postage and printing tasks for approximately 37,800 mailings involving Mercer County properties. The county mails real estate tax bills twice each year. The billing method now used costs the county about $18,300 annually. Mercer County Treasurer Dave Kaiser said he believes the county will reap significant savings by using SmartBill - an idea discussed by officials since 2009.
"We anticipate the savings will more than pay the fee for the service," he said.
Kaiser said the switch should save the county at least $3,000 per year and likely more after "glitches" are worked out after the first mailing. He estimates a savings of 6 cents per each envelope mailed. It currently costs about 27 cents per envelope, he added.
"We're really trying to get our costs down," he said of the treasurer's office.
The treasurer's staff clocks about 140 hours in preparation work prior to the biannual mailings. Folding the bills - a cost of $280 - currently is the only out-sourced task.
The county office is limited to placing no more than three bills in one envelope for residents who own more than one property. However, SmartBill is licensed to mail approximately seven bills in one envelope, which reduces the cost of postage, Kaiser said.
SmartBill also offers other services, such as online bill viewing and paying, although the county hasn't yet pursued those options.
County commissioners approved the contract with SmartBill on Thursday morning.
In other business, commissioners approved a $500,000 Local Government Innovation Fund loan to help fund construction of an oil tank, pump and wash bay at the site of a new county engineering facility on Mud Pike, west of Celina.
The project cost is estimated at $555,556. The remaining expenses will be paid from the engineer's budget.
The county has received a total of five $500,000 LGIF no-interest loans in the last month to help pay for the engineering complex.
Additional online story on this date
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