Saturday, December 10, 2011

If Only These Debts Were as Easy to Collect as They are to Calculate

Local citizens owe millions in unpaid taxes, fees, fines. (Beloit Daily News, December 10, 2011)

Excerpt: Extensive efforts are continuously made to collect these debts, they said, and efforts have been intensified in recent years. But more aggressive pursuit of local debtors necessitates additional manpower, which adds costs to the city's bottom line, they said.  [Emphasis added.]

For example, cutting off utilities generally proves an effective means of forcing payment. But with thousands of delinquent utility accounts, it's prohibitive for the city's small staff to fully enforce strict policies. Hiring a sufficient number of employees to perform the jobs would be very costly, York said. Still, the city pursues full payment.

"Obviously, if someone owes the city money, it's in our best interest to collect," York said.

At the same time, he said, "it's difficult." Many city residents have adopted a habit of letting utility bills and other charges accumulate until the end of the year. Others, hit hard by the economic recession and chronic unemployment, simply "don't have the money to pay," he said.
Sometimes, a few debtors are arrested. Others have their unpaid bills intercepted from tax returns. And some fall to the wayside as uncollectible.

At the Beloit City Council's most recent meeting, councilors unanimously approved writing-off more than $200,000 in "doubtful accounts." The council report noted, "these write-offs are not expected to have any adverse fiscal impact to the city." Several councilors noted that the cost of hiring lawyers or collection agencies to force payment would be greater than the amount owed.  [Emphasis added.]

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