File photo by Deb Jacques

Tech options being explored in relation to dishonored checks

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published January 2, 2019


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — On Dec. 10, Clinton Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem provided an update about an ordinance related to dishonored checks.

Last month, Gieleghem wrote a letter to the Clinton Township Board of Trustees in reference to exploring alternative payment systems that can provide similar or better security, all while reducing input errors that result in additional fees.

He said that he has coordinated with the water billing division of the Public Services Department, the Finance Department and the IT Department in terms of testing different options with three additional vendors. In his letter, he said, “Including our existing provider, we’ve found vast differences among the four on the range of service options, cost structures and software integration.”

He added that while technology comes at a cost, it does provide opportunity, convenience and efficiency.

“Getting technology wrong can present serious problems for organizations and the customers they serve,” he wrote to the board. “We are intrigued with the opportunity to provide new and innovative options for our residents, but also want to ensure at least some of the additional costs can be offset with administrative costs saving.”

The original ordinance was unanimously approved in 2015. Gieleghem said Dec. 10 that industry standards continue to increase beyond the $25 in additional charges the township imposes on electronic or phone-related payment errors, and that the township incurs bank fees for nonsufficient funds.

Often times, errors are a result of issues like mistyped routing or account numbers. He said there are currently “like 11 different steps and 39 minutes of extra staff time” in both his office and within the water billing division.

The ordinance had been revisited this past April and July, when it was postponed to seek a more long-term solution.

“That’s what we’re doing — we’re working on a long-term solution to explore different payment vendors. … If we get it right, we can do great things for our residents and our customers. (If we) get it wrong, it can be a real problem,” Gieleghem said. “We’re taking our time with it.”

Responding to a question from Clerk Kim Meltzer on if it would impact her department, such as in the case of the issuance of passports, Gieleghem said that once the right vendor is chosen to reflect the right array of services, Meltzer’s department and others — such as the Senior Center and Parks and Recreation — will be part of the process.

He said the recommendation plan hasn’t changed, which involves bringing a recommendation forward to the Board of Trustees in January, followed by an implementation date in March, after the conclusion of tax season.

The timeline was identified in consideration of department employees and residents who will have to adapt to system changes, Gieleghem stated. The timeline is supported due to utility billing that occurs monthly and in lesser amounts, while taxes for larger amounts are billed in July and December.