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Gulf Breeze Adds Charge To Utility Bills

The City of Gulf Breeze has started charging you money for taking your money. If you pay your utility bills to the City of Gulf Breeze online, you’ll find a dollar or two added to the bill. Beginning this month, the city has started charging what it is calling a convenience fee for making your payment online.

"The cost of doing business that way has substantially increased" said Vernon Prather, the assistant city manager of Gulf Breeze. "As the staff and city council reviewed their budget for the upcoming year, they noticed that the credit card fees had steadily increased over the years to where they were approximately 102 thousand per year, as more people are using their credit cards. So the staff recommended and the city council agreed to recoup those costs through the credit card convenience fees."

When a utilities customer pays their bill online or in person at City Hall with a credit or debit card, they are now charged $2 per transaction if the transaction is $200 or less. After that, the fee jumps another $3. If you choose to pay with an electronic check, you will still be charged $1 per transaction by a company called Point and Pay, which operates the city’s online payment system.

There are ways to avoid the fees. You can write a paper check and either send it in the mail or drop it off at city hall during business hours, or sign up to have the bill deducted from a bank account automatically each month, regardless of the amount. That means giving that company, Point and Pay, access to your account information. "They process the fees, they process the transaction, they send us notification that it's gone through. We don't store any of that data.”  said Ed Miller, the IT manager for the City of Gulf Breeze. Miller says no one’s financial information is stored on the city’s servers. "We don't save any of that information, and we have to certify through our vendor (Point and Pay) that we don't store any of that information. That's an annual, reoccurring question that they send us. 'Are you saving any of this data?' and we tell them 'No', and then we get certified that we don't keep the info."

So the bottom line is if you want to avoid paying a little extra on your City of Gulf Breeze utility bill, it’s time to remember where you put your postage stamps. The bad news: postage rates are going up in 2019. But there are still no online convenience fees on your electric bill from Gulf Power, so there’s that.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.