DOING its part to restrain the surge of consumer debt, the...

salmagundi

November 04, 1992

DOING its part to restrain the surge of consumer debt, the Harford County Council unanimously rejected a proposal last month to allow residents to pay their property tax bills by credit card.

Council members seemed annoyed the easy-pay measure even came before them, presented by County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann. Larry Klimovitz, the administration director, said Ms. Rehrmann didn't endorse the bill either, but noted it would afford a convenience to some hard-pressed taxpayers.

The proposal originated in a state law passed this year that enables counties to collect state and county property taxes, corporate and personal taxes and water, sewer and highway assessments by credit card.

"I think it sends a bad message," said Councilman Barry Glassman. The plan would cause more financial duress for residents rather than less, he said, and would encourage financial irresponsibility.

While the charge-now, pay-later scheme would be an advantage to consumers for some purchases, credit card payment of taxes would be of little value to most residents, Councilman Robert Wagner noted.

Most homebuyers already have their property taxes included in monthly mortgage payments, he noted. Residents who have paid off their mortgages over the years are accustomed to saving for taxes, rather than using plastic, he added.

The main beneficiary would be the financial institution handling the service, not the county. The council resolution called for selecting a bank, setting fees and deciding which cards to accept.

By endorsing conservative personal financial management, Harford County thus avoided the battlefield of the great credit card wars and the delicate decision as to which of the many plastics would be acceptable as legal tender.

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