Elginites still prefer paying city with cash, checks
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org August 19, 2012 4:08PM
(Checks processed by bank)
Drop Box Receipts
Checks processed by cashiers
Credit Card Receipts
Processed by cashiers
Checks and cash
Cash/checks processed by cashiers
Total number of
January 2012 to June 2012
Source: City of Elgin
Updated: September 21, 2012 6:06AM
Elgin may be gaining a reputation as a tech-savvy place, but when it comes to paying bills and other charges owed to the city by residents, cash and checks are still king.
According to data provided by Elgin CFO Colleen Lavery, for the first six months of 2012, 161,157 transactions were processed by the city. The number does not include parks and recreation programming or golf course fees and purchases. It does cover such charges as water bills, permits, code violations, tickets, private lawns mowed by the city, dog fines, false alarms, Bluff City Cemetery, and Hemmens Cultural Center events.
During the first half of 2012, 13.36 percent of payments were made through the city’s website; 36.49 percent were checks sent in the mail and processed by the bank; and 16.30 percent were electronic deposits made from someone’s account to the bank. That means 66.15 percent of transactions were handled directly by the bank.
For the same time period, 11.34 percent were checks put in the drop box in front of city hall and processed by city cashiers; 0.9 percent were credit card charges made at city hall; and 21.61 percent of payments were either cash or check payments made at city hall. That means clerks at city hall handled 33.85 percent of payments made.
The above figures also show that just 29.66 percent of payments people made to Elgin were directly electronic, meaning more than 70 percent of transactions still involve more traditional means such as writing a check and/or heading to city hall to make payment.
Adding mailed, handwritten checks with those put in the drop box, at least 47.83 percent of payments received were of this method. Lavery said of those paying in line in person, about 65 - 70 percent used cash instead of a check or credit card.
The way Elgin pays probably has something to do with the city’s socioeconomic makeup, Lavery said, and that a good many senior citizens still pay bills in cash.
The city has been offering electronic payment for about 10 years, Lavery said. Use had climbed steadily until a couple years ago, when those numbers plateaued. In recent years, the city also has started offering residents the option of being billed via email, Lavery said, in the hopes that this eventually will translate into more people paying bills electronically.
How Elgin compares to Naperville
While Elginites still seem to prefer cash and checks for making payments to the city, Naperville is seeing higher numbers of people turning to electronic options.
According to Kate Houlihan, Naperville’s interim community relations manager, in that city, currently 26 percent of its utility customers use online billing and just under 50 percent of utility payments are made through some type of electronic payment tool. Roughly 26 percent of such payments to Naperville are made using credit cards, 13 percent by bank draft and 7 percent using a variety of other check free online payment vehicles.
Houlihan also noted that in 2011, 86 percent of the parking ticket payments in Naperville were paid online. For the city’s commuter parking services, commuters can call in to pay via credit card, or use a bank draft for this service, with 38 percent of commuters utilize bank the later,.
License and permit applications can be downloaded from Naperville’s website, but an applicant must come to the Municipal Center to pick up the permit and pay the fees.
How Elgin handles cash and check payments made at city hall
Per the handling of cash and checks received at Elgin’s city hall (and Elgin-operated golf courses), the city council recently approved along a revision to the process.
It is set to require that the collected cash deposits be fed into a smart safe’s note reader, which will verify the currency and track the deposit by employee. Daily deposit totals would be accumulated with this information automatically relayed to Fifth Third Bank, where the city’s account would receive provisional credit for funds.
This process eliminates the need to complete a deposit slip and the need to have a second employee recount and verify the totals. Brinks - the armored courier used by the city - would reconcile the deposit information upon pickup. The smart safes the city would leases would require a maximum of two transports per week.
The cash handling process also would require the city to deposit checks electronically, using a city computer and a scanner to process checks electronically and transmit the information to Fifth Third Bank, which would give the city immediate credit for deposited funds. The move would reduces bank processing fees and has the potential to lower the number of checks returned for insufficient funds.