City should aggressively pursue debts

Anonymous
Oct 2, 2012

I was simply flabbergasted to hear that the city had $267,000 of uncollected ambulance fees, untapped revenue, which has accumulated over the years. Can you imagine what that money could buy for the Fire Department! Looking for revenue can sometimes be sitting right at your own backdoor. I wonder if the same thing is happening in other city departments where billing is taking place such as, court fees, Code Enforcement, sewer and water, income tax fees, etc.

When the budget begins to tighten, the city tends to look at the budget in different ways that they never had to look at before in order to gain revenue.  Sometimes the city has to spend a little more money to collect the uncollected revenues like giving employees the right tools to collect the revenue. Maybe the city staff level has gotten so low that they can’t collect what is owed without having the proper tools such as updated computer equipment, personnel, software, etc.

I understand there will be money that can’t be collected but either decide to write it off or collect it but don’t keep it on the books for years. The problem of uncollected revenues needs to be carefully assessed by using problem solving skills and sometimes just plain common sense as to why the city is having difficulty collecting what is owed to them.

If the city is not aggressive enough in pursuing the debt, people soon catch on to the fact that they can get away with not paying their fair share of the revenues and the situation takes on an even a bigger scope of uncollected revenue.  

Until next time, we hope the city will take an aggressive stand towards collecting what is owed to the them even if that means taking it all the way to court to set some examples that the city means business in collecting what is owed to the taxpayer.
 

Sharon Johnson is a born and bred Sandusky resident who's outspoken about community issues. Her blog, chronicling her efforts to keep tabs on city projects, is posted here Tuesdays at 11 a.m.

Comments

deertracker

Owed to the taxpayer???? I thought it was owed by the taxpayer!!!!!!!!!!!!!

wiredmama222

excellent point

Pundit

Sharon takes a short sighted approach. Her assumption seems to be that collecting money is free. Recall that the city has to contract the collection out. You could hire more city employees to do it or as Sandusky did hire a collection agency on a short term basis. Would you hire someone to collect 1000 or even 100K? Remember you have to pay someone to harass the debtors into paying. The cost of collection will quickly approach and then exceed the money to be collected. Sandusky has a good strategy here. Let enough debt accrue then go after it.

totallyamazed

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I agree with Sharon on this. If folks can't pay the full balance they owe in one swoop (I was one of these poor unfortunates that owed ambulance fees) then a payment schedule should be set-up or paid over time on their taxes.

Here's another novel idea, how about pinching the amplified music vehicles in this town. At $300 a citation that could pay for a ton of really cool stuff the city could use and we need so much.
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T. A. Schwanger

I recall when the City Commission created this fee many years ago to pay for Fire Department equipment. It's called "creative financing". Prior to that time, a fee for ambulance calls was not charged based on "taxpayer services".

When the fee was created, the City Commission justified the charge based on " the resident's insurance company will pick up the fee." Well, some insurance companies pick up some or all of the fee. Other insurance companies don't.

The plan was for the City to write off ambulance fees for low income users based on an income formula.

One can hope the City stays true to its word.

car 54

Sharon is spot on. How about property taxes?

luvblues2

When the city pays more to lawyers and collection agencies than the original bill, how does one recoup?

T. A. Schwanger

I recall when the City Commission created this fee many years ago to pay for Fire Department equipment. It's called "creative financing". Prior to that time, a fee for ambulance calls was not charged based on "taxpayer services".

When the fee was created, the City Commission justified the charge based on " the resident's insurance company will pick up the fee." Well, some insurance companies pick up some or all of the fee. Other insurance companies don't.

The plan was for the City to write off ambulance fees for low income users based on an income formula.

One can hope the City stays true to its word.

Julie R.

Excellent comment by T.A. Schwanger.

So if the plan many years ago was created by the City Commission and the plan was to only charge the residents that had an insurance company willing to pick up the fee but write off the fees for low-income users, I really don't see how the City Commission could come back at this stage of the game and say the low-income users that used the ambulance services in the past now owe the city money.

To put it bluntly, they can't.

donutshopguy

If I say I can afford it will it be waived. What a great country.

I uses services and those greedy insurance companies pay.

Oh if forgot, the insurance companies will raise their rates to cover this cost. Thus, those of us working pay for some more entitlement.

wiredmama222

Watch how fast many of these so called insurance companies will not pay because of the time constants. If they haven't filed in a timely manner, the insurance won't pay. Just a fact of life folks. More than a year, kiss your insurance fees goodbye. The fact is, insurance will not pay any claim filed past a year's time.

So if the City of Sandusky didn't file to anyone's insurance within that year's window, no insurance will pay the bill. Does that mean the City will then try to collect from the person who HAD insurance? If I had used the service, had insurance to cover it and the city failed to comply with the legalities of filing to cover their fees, I sure wouldn't pay the bill NOW. Not if they failed to file in a timely manner.

So what does the City of Sandusky intend to do about those people? Have they been billing for these fees all along? Have they notified those with insurance or not?

What is the status of these uncollected fees? Who does their billing? Why were they not collected before this?

I am all for them legitametly collecting them if they can, but not suddenly deciding to do so because they suddenly need the money and not at a time when so many are out of work and can barely feed their families as it is.

queenjhb

How about paycuts for all city officials, that should do it.

wiredmama222

That sounds really good. Start with the lawyers and judges and work your way down.

Taxed Enough Already

Great work again Sharon. I wonder why the city does not turn them over to the Attorney General of the State of Ohio's office. That's what state offices do when monies are owed them.

Julie R.

A city can turn people over to the Attorney General when monies are owed? Really? So does that mean when your joke courts on the 2nd floor of the Erie County courthouse intentionally sat on the monies for over 3 years (in non-interest bearing accounts) from that court-ordered illegal scam sheriff sale they pulled off on the property of my deceased mother and stepfather, I should have turned them over to the Attorney General?

wiredmama222

exactly, Julie. And let's tack on the interest they will owe you.

trafficman

Lets hire another lawyer at $150 an hour to go after this money!

T. A. Schwanger

While I can't speak to how the delinquent ambulance run fees were collected in recent times I can say the system was originally set up to bill the insurance company whether private or medicare etc.

Most insurance companies do not cover 100% of the bill. After insurance paid its portion, the resident either paid the remaining balance, had the remaining balance waved, reduced or payments scheduled based on individual instances.

Can you imagine the panic when an elderly resident on a fixed income receives a bill under this new plan for an amblulance run from several years ago?

I wonder if the City is actively pursuing "false fire alarm" fees as is provided for by City Ordinance?

Darkhorse

I wonder how much uncollectables in different services that the city provides are really on the books besides ambulance fees. It would probably shock us. The problem with uncollectables isn't limited to just the city. This area is sitting on a bundle of uncollected money while all the time, they keep coming to the taxpayer for more money. It is much easier to ask the taxpayer for the money then to try to collect what is owed. The schools need to ask why so much money is outstanding in delinquent property taxes. We are talking millions and millions of dollars! The figure would astound the average taxpayer. Let's collect what is owed before asking for more money.

car 54

Darkhorse. While Sandusky is in the collecting mood, the city needs the million paid back from the housing mess. You are correct this area is sitting on a bundle of uncollected money.

queenjhb

back ambulance fees will scare some elderly people, they may have a wait and see attitude, afraid to call when needed , better set this straight Sandusky , for the greatest generation doesnt need this worry. Paycuts for city officials, c'mon officials ,help out the city you love.