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Rock Falls coming after deadbeat utility users

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 1:42 p.m. CDT

ROCK FALLS – The city wants to make sure it receives the money it is owed. And right now, that’s about $290,000.

So the city has signed up with the Illinois comptroller’s new Local Debt Recovery program, which will help recover delinquent electric, sewer, water and garbage payments by garnishing deadbeat customers’ income from tax returns, state paychecks, lottery winnings and commercial vendor payments.

Money taken from state payroll checks cannot exceed 25 percent of the employee’s net income, but there is no cap to how much can be recovered from the other three sources. Debtors will be charged a $15 fee per collection.

Debtors will receive written notice from the comptroller’s office and will be able to submit a written protest within 60 days after notice is received. If a protest isn’t filed, the right to contest the claim is forfeited and the comptroller will turn over the money to the city.

There is no cost to the city to participate in the program, City Administrator Robbin Blackert said.

“Our hope in using this program is to recover as much delinquent debt as possible,” Blackert said in a news release announcing the program.

“Every dime we collect from these debtors will allow us to keep our utility charges as low as possible for our customers who pay their bills.”

The program went online late Thursday night and the city already has received notice of funds recovered.

About 1,000 past-due accounts worth $290,000 were put into the system, she said.

“We got our old debt put in there; got program online, see how it pays off,” she said. “It’s a good time of year to start it. People are filing income tax returns.”

Blackert went to Springfield in June to learn about the new program. Rock Falls is a “perfect fit,” she said.

Chicago and Springfield were the first cities to take part, and Chicago has recovered more than $5 million in delinquent parking tickets, she said.

Blackert will update the council on the amount collected so far at next week’s meeting.

“Everybody’s excited to see how much it does,” she said. “The only alternative is to use a private collection agency. They pay a third of what debt there is. [We’re] still losing money chasing debt.

“This is a great alternative for municipalities ... to get money out to them.”

To learn more

Go to www.IllinoisComptroller.com to learn more about the debt recovery program.

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