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City of Covington: Updated Tax Software More User-Friendly

Property owners in Covington will notice a few changes when they pay their property taxes in September, according to a news release from City Hall.
 
The city's finance department has updated its archaic software system and is in the middle of transitioning to a system that gives owners more information and more search capabilities.
 
"The new software is more user friendly for our residents, and it'll enable us to operate in a more sophisticated way," Finance Director Muhammed Owusu said. "Of course change of this magnitude almost inevitably brings a few bumps in the road, so we're asking people to be patient."
 
The city's previous software dated back to the late '90s and is no longer supported by IT services, said Shannon White, who recently became Covington's revenue/collection manager. The new software, called GovCollect, will be used for a wide variety of finance department operations, only a few of which will be noticed by residents, she said.
 
GovCollect was used when waste collection bills were sent out in March and will be used again when property tax bills are mailed Sept. 15.
 
The new software allows residents to access historical information about their bills (in addition to paying them) through the City's website. There are two paths to the online system from the website's home page: By clicking the "Make a Payment" logo or clicking "Property Tax" under the "Forms & Documents" section.
 
The website can be accessed HERE.
 
White said residents who have saved a link to the payment page as a "favorite" on their computer should spike that shortcut and resave it, since the link has changed.
 
A few things are different this year. 
  • After clicking the link, property owners will have three ways to search for their bill: by using their last name, using the name of their street, or typing in their property identification number, or PIDN. If they use the PIDN, for the first time they will need to type in any dashes or periods - exactly how it's listed on their bill. 
  • Owners will see several links that feature more historical information, including 12 years of assessed property value and 12 years of property tax and waste collection charges. 
  • Unpaid waste collection fees (from March) will be added to property tax bills. 
  • Residents who use a credit card to pay their bill, either online or in person at City Hall, will be charged a service fee of $3 or 2.65 percent, whichever is higher. In the past, the City absorbed the fee assessed by credit card companies, but with the trend toward credit card usage, that practice has become cost-prohibitive for the City, Owusu said. 
Residents will still be able to pay their bill by mail, with a check, and in person at 20 W. Pike St. The city also has a secure, after-hours drop box that appears as a slot on the outside wall of City Hall (to the left of the main entrance but not under the overhang).
 
Property tax bills will be mailed out Sept. 15 and residents will have until Oct. 15 to pay. The tax rate for 2018 will be set when the Covington city commission resumes its weekly Tuesday night meeting schedule in August.
 
The GovCollect software is just the latest step taken to modernize and improve operations in the City's Finance Department: 
  • In April, Covington hired Owusu, who has nearly 30 years' experience managing money and overseeing public spending in state and city governments around the country, to lead a department that has seen a revolving door of interim, acting and short-term directors over the last four years. 
  • In May, the City created and later filled the revenue/collections manager position to help separate that function from expenditure functions and fix a weakness identified in audits. 
  • In June, the City expanded, updated, and made a commitment to follow an investment policy designed to make sure the City's reserves - even short-term reserves - don't sit idle. 
  • And Covington officials have been conducting "relationship reviews" with the finance institutions with which the City does business in order to make its banking more efficient.
"We are searching continuously for ways to improve professionalism and our customer service," Owusu said. "Covington taxpayers can expect to see more steps in the months ahead."
 
-Staff report