By JASON CAMPBELL
On one hand, the City of Lathrop saw an increase in the amount of money racked up by delinquent accounts deemed uncollectable for the second straight year.
But the number of accounts that the City of Lathrop is asking the Lathrop City Council to write off of its books when the body meets tonight at 7 p.m. at Lathrop City Hall – located at 390 Towne Centre Drive – actually declined over the last 12 months, as did the amount of money owed on “miscellaneous” accounts not related to the city’s utility services.
According to a staff report prepared for the council, a total of 162 accounts have accrued $41,832 worth of debt that the city has been unable to collect on its own – a marked increase from the $35,172 that was outstanding the previous year.
However, there is currently only $763 outstanding in miscellaneous accounts compared to almost $9,000 last year – meaning that even with the increase in delinquent bills, the city is actually requesting a smaller amount to write off than they did during the 2017/18 fiscal year.
According to the staff report, the decrease in miscellaneous outstanding debt is attributed to a change in the accounting methodology for that particular type of account – not necessarily because there were less of those issues during the 12-month reporting period.
But there’s also a chance that they’ll get some of that back.
The city utilizes the services of a debt collection agency that retains 30 percent of whatever is collected, and while there are no guarantees that they will get anything back – last year it only several hundred dollars that the city received.
The delinquent accounts that were included in the proposal for the final annual write-off include some of the accounts that the city extends a grace period to during the month of December so that everybody in the community can have essential city services during the holidays – at a cost of more than $7,000 last year to taxpayers. The council has authorized the extension of the city’s grace period during the month of December every year since 1996 as a sign of goodwill to residents.
Lathrop currently allows customers a 60-day grace period as long as their account is caught up the following month. Once it reaches a 90-day point, and the payment has still not been made – and a payment plan has not been set-up with the city’s finance department – those accounts are typically disconnected from the city’s services.
While water and sewer fees typically comprise the bulk of the outstanding collections that are written off, other city fees like animal services, parks and recreation fees and charges from individual city departments for a variety of different things are included in the annual clearing process.