EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 31, 2013

More towns offer online services

License, registration renewals grow in popularity

By Alex Lippa

---- — Online banking has come to town halls throughout Southern New Hampshire.

Most town clerks applaud the option of doing more town business online, but they wish more residents took advantage.

It doesn’t really affect town employees’ workload, they said, but it does make it more convenient for taxpayers.

More and more towns are giving their residents the option of renewing dog licenses and car registrations online. Some let property owners pay their taxes, water and sewer bills, or request vital records from the comfort of a home computer.

“Even in the last six to eight months, more towns are adding services,” said Becky Benvenuti, vice president of the New Hampshire Town Clerks Association. “The public is demanding it and it’s happening.”

Danville residents have been able to pay their taxes online since November 2011. Tax collector Kimberly Burnham said about 25 percent of property owners use the system.

“It’s been awesome,” Burnham said. “A lot of the new residents in town have been using it. Real estate dealers and banks are doing it, too.”

In Sandown, residents have been able to do so for several years, but not many people have taken advantage of it.

There is a fee, but it’s minimal when compared to the convenience.

There’s a fee of 2.95 percent if residents pay with a credit card. But, paying out of a checking account costs just 25 cents.

“A lot of people don’t know about ( the checking account fee),” Town Clerk Michelle Short said. “We only have about 10 people a month paying their taxes online.”

Salem has offered online services for dog license and vehicle registration renewals since May.

Town Clerk Susan Wall estimates about 10 percent of residents pay online.

“It’s just so much more convenient for the residents,” she said.

Once a dog has been licensed or a car registered, clerks send out renewal notices. Residents can return it by mail, in person or use the provided personal identification number to do it online.

“It works really well and it keeps lines here down,” Plaistow Town Clerk Maryellen Pelletier said. “It’s a big time saver for them.”

Plaistow has had the system in place for about a decade.

Pelletier said about a third of Plaistow residents use the online system.

While the reviews are mostly positive, town clerks admit there are drawbacks to the online system.

“About two or three registrations a month have gotten lost in the mail,” Pelletier said.

Londonderry Town Clerk Meg Seymour said the online system doesn’t work for those who procrastinate with their registrations.

“Until they physically receive their registrations, they are not registered,” sher said. “We don’t allow online registrations after a particular day, so we can leave ourselves a week’s buffer.”