The recent coverage by the news media of uncollected accounts receivable in DeKalb County is both incorrect and misleading. The coverage distorts the facts and falsely states that there is a substantial amount of recoverable debt.
The facts of the matter are as follows:
1. The County does have appropriate procedures in place to address accounts receivable on an on-going basis, including the placement of liens against property for unpaid services.
2. The County’s collections ratios are generally equal or higher than the average for comparable jurisdictions. The County’s collection rate for water & sewer service is very high. For the 1st quarter of this year, the collection rate averages 98.42%. That result, given the impact of the recession and the high number of foreclosures in the County, is outstanding.
3. The County is in the process of awarding a new contract for collection services that provides for an aggressive collection effort on those accounts that are deemed uncollectable through the County’s normal processes. The contract award recommendation is currently being processed by our Purchasing Department for submission to the Board of Commissioners.
The media coverage fails to indicate that the collections for certain services by all counties are controlled by the very nature of the service. For example, the collection rate for services associated with medical transportation is historically low, reflecting the fact that a high percentage of individuals transported do not have insurance. Notwithstanding, the County’s collection rate in this area is above the national average. The County also utilizes a private company to both bill clients and collect outstanding amounts.
The media coverage fails to disclose the time fame of the accumulated debt. A substantial portion of the debt goes back several years and has been properly accounted for as “uncollectable.”
Notwithstanding our current high performance regarding collections of accounts receivable, we will not rest on our laurels. Our administration remains committed to pursuing an aggressive accounts receivable policy, both through our internal procedures and through the use of appropriate private collections efforts".
Burrell Ellis DeKalb County CEO
WSB TV response.
"In response to CEO Burrell Ellis’ email regarding our reporting on DeKalb County’s uncollected revenue, we stand by our story.
The report was neither incorrect, nor misleading. In fact, the numbers were all provided by DeKalb County government officials after we filed open records requests. We computed the totals.
For example, the 2010 Water Department document shows a collection rate is 93.95%, not 97% as indicated by the finance director in Tuesday’s budget meeting. The “AR Balance” column is the uncollected revenue rolled forward from previous months and years. You will see as of 12/2010 the total was 43.9 million, exactly as we reported.
County Commissioners have already moved to privatize the entire ambulance transport operation for the county, specifically because the revenue collection percentage is known to be so low.
Recorder’s Court Chief Judge Nelly Withers supplied the data regarding the uncollected fees from probationers who failed to complete the program.
The procedures of sending letters to collect bills (which Ellis references in his email) was deemed not to be enough by three county commissioners during Tuesday’s budget meeting. See video clip below. During the meeting, Commissioner Elaine Boyer questions Finance Director Joel Gottlieb regarding the matter of a collections firm. His answers and her responses eventually end with him acknowledging that there is no collections firm in place currently.
There is also an exchange in the video between Boyer and Richard Stogner, where he indicates that a portion of the uncollected revenue should be written-off because it is several years old. You can watch the commissioners’ response to that suggestion.
Lastly, the clip includes Budget Chairman Lee May discussing his thoughts about the revenue that remains uncollected, and the need for a collections firm and accompanying policy.
CEO Ellis may disagree with the commissioners over whether a collections firm is the best avenue to collect the county’s revenue. However, the uncollected dollar amounts we reported are accurate".
You gotta love Stogner saying something to the effect; Ah Hell, just write it off. The honest working taxpayering citizens will pay it, no problem. We'll just raise taxes.
Click here for raw video.