The city's finance, wage and salary committee approved a request from city clerk Val Foley to start using the State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue as its collection agency at its March 7 meeting.
Presently the city sends unpaid traffic tickets, water utility and personal property tax bill and services such as lawn mowing or snow removal to H.E. Stark Collection Agency to be collected. However, Foley said recently her office has had trouble making contact with the company to give it new accounts to go after, and remittances on collections are way down.
"We are not getting a whole lot of response from them," Foley told the committee.
She said mobile home parking permit fees, which are actually personal property taxes, are the most prevalent things she would like to get collected.
"Some of them have amassed a little bit of money in those, and we would like to try to get that," she said. "Collection, at best, is not a great thing, it's hard to get money from people. We don't typically go to small claims court or spend a lot of money on that type of thing."
She said after checking with other city and town clerks, her deputy Mary Stoll recommended the city switch to the State Debt Collection Initiative offered by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR).
"It looks like they might have a lot more tools to collect the debt. The Department of Revenue seems to find people a little bit better," Foley said. "They have social security numbers, they can do the tax refund intercept, they seem to have a handle on what people have and where they are."
Foley said like the present collection agency, the Department of Revenue will take a percent of what they collect as a fee. The debts the city would want the agency to collect also has to be above a certain dollar amount, which is also the case with Stark.
"But we would get something, which is better than nothing," Foley said.
Alderperson Sherrie Belliveau said she had worked in collection with WPS asked if there would be periodic reports from the DOR, and Foley said that was the case. Foley said the city used to get such reports from Stark, but she hadn't seen one "in quite a while."
Foley also said the city presently doesn't have a contract with Stark, so making the switch could happen right away if the city council approves the agreement at the March 13 meeting.
"And I feel better dealing with a state agency than I do with a private company, although Stark has been good," she said. "But we have had a lot of trouble getting ahold of them lately."
She also said that the Department of Revenue would also work with those owing the city money in the form of payment plans.
The proposed agreement was approved unanimously by the committee.
Jamie Taylor may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce