|Unpaid fines in JP courts add up to almost
County contracts with collection firm to bring in the bucks
|Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor|
March 29, 2006 -- Unpaid fines in Hopkins County's two justice of the peace courts add up to close to $1.5 million, and the county wants to collect what is owed.
Property taxes make up the bulk of anticipated revenues for county government. But along with those tax dollars, the county also receives revenue from fees charged and from fines levied in the court system.
Commissioners are taking a more positive step in collecting unpaid fines through an agreement with Graves Humphries Stahl, Ltd., according to Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap.
"Any time that a fine is not paid, justice has not been served," he said. "We realize that part of our budgetary process are the fines and fees that haven't come in."
Justices of the Peace Yvonne King and Ronny Glossup recently reported the total unpaid fines in their courts. In Judge Glossup's Precinct 2 court, unpaid fines total more than $1 million. Judge Yvonne King said Tuesday that she has more than $428,000 outstanding.
"We want to look at enhancing our revenues by going after this money," Millsap said. "It's there on the table waiting. We have to have somebody to help us collect it."
That is where the contract with GHS comes in.
The collection firm will notify people owing fines of steps that will be taken to collect the money.
The collection agency will pursue fines that have gone unpaid more than 60 days. All amounts collected by the firm will be turned over to the county upon collection. An additional 30 percent will be added to the total amount of the fine to pay for the collection efforts.
GHS will have computerized access to the information necessary to collect the fines and fees that are subject to the agreement. The first step by the collection agency will be to send out courtesy notices before an arrest warrant is issued.
"They are going to send out a courtesy notice within two weeks," Glossup said. "They are going to use my letterhead."
Glossup said the collection agency has been effective in neighboring counties, including Hunt County, and that he and Judge King will work with county commissioners to collect all outstanding fines owed to the county. King said the agreement will help the two justice courts fulfill their statutory requirements, as well as add much-needed revenue to the county's coffers.
"Judge Glossup and I want to [use] every avenue that we have to collect outstanding fines according to law and still be fair to the citizens," King said.