County offering Pay or Appear program
The Macoupin County Finance Committee Thursday night heard from State’s Attorney Jennifer Watson and the program that her department has started this year to help bring in extra revenue to the county.
Pay or Appear is a program where notices are sent out to those who haven’t paid fines or fees, to come to court and either appear or pay their costs.
Judge David Diehl would in the past call in about 10 to 20 a month and talk to them about their payments. He did about 100 to 200 a year, Watson said.
Before 2010, payment plans were set up to help people pay for fees. If they didn’t pay within a specific time, a warrant was issued for their arrest.
“In 2010 that got changed because a law said you can’t arrest people immediately for that,” Watson said. “Beginning this year we stated Pay or Appear. We are having them every other month. The clerk’s office is sending notices out to people who are behind on their payments. They get a notice from the court and they either have to pay what they owe or appear in court. A lot of people are coming to pay because they don’t want to see the judge or deal with it, so they are paying it.”
The office has notice that the deposits for the Circuit Court’s office Pay or Appear months have averaged a little over $192,000. Month’s without Pay or Appear, deposits have averaged around $165,000, a $27,000 difference in revenue.
“If they don’t show, we are getting warrants for their arrest,” Watson said. “Once we have given them a court date to pay or appear and they don’t show, then we can legally send out a warrant for their arrest.”
In March and June, approximately 150 warrants were issued by the clerk’s office.
The money collected goes to various funds.“It depends where you are at with your owed money,” Watson said. “If they still owe on fines, fines go into our general funds. For fees, it depends on each file and what type of cases they are. In March and June, the deposits for the general fund for those two months for fines was over $50,000.”
“We are being proactive,” Watson. “This is the first time we are doing this Pay or Appear.
On the warrants for those who don’t show, if $100 for example, there are fees placed on top of that total. There is a bonding fee of $75, $70 of which goes to the agency that executes the warrant. The other $5 goes to the circuit clerk’s office.
“We’re still studying this closely,” Watson said. “It looks very promising as far as collecting on some of these old debts and bringing money into the county.”
Word is beginning to trickle out about this program.
“I think it’s just now getting where word is getting out,” Watson said. “People will understand they will be given warrants now. If they don’t pay or they don’t appear in court, they are getting a warrant.”
Committee member Bill Harding reported to the Finance Committee about the health insurance update. The union is considering legal action because not enough notice was given for the possible change in health plans.
“They are threatening to file a grievance or take us to arbitration because we didn’t notify them 60 days ahead of time about changing health plans,” Harding said. “We got the information three days ahead of time and they want 60 days notice. We can’t do anything with it right now, we’re still gathering information and see where we go from there.”
A motion to table the health insurance issue until the next meeting was approved. A motion was also approved to the full board for approval for the finance committee’s Power to Act on the health insurance issue at the next meeting. The health insurance renewal starts on Sept. 1, so a compromise would need to be in place by the Aug. 26 finance meeting.
Other business including passing the motion to adopt a resolution to the full board for approval of general fund and special funds budget. A resolution regarding the sheriff’s budget was approved to be sent to the full board for approval.
Recorder’s Special Funds appropriations resolution was approved to be sent to full county board for approval.
Discussion over a workman’s compensation claim took place, as one claim has been reopened at a much higher amount than when originally submitted. This could have an impact on the county’s premiums come December.
“Up until this year, we were happy we haven’t had any large claims,” said Pete Duncan, Macoupin County Clerk. “We’ve had one claim that was started last year and has been reopened. It is now a very significant amount. That will probably means really highly a significant premium increase in December.”
Matt Gazda of Gazda Insurance has been looking into the matter and it appears as if the claim is legitimate.
The claim was for around $500,000. Originally, the claim had been only around $10,000 to $15,000, Duncan said. “I don’t know all the specifics. The last I heard from Matt is that there is nothing that can be done. It meets all the requirements.”
A motion passed to recommend granting Power-to-Act to the finance committee to approve end of the fiscal year bills.