Michael DaRe overpaid his city utility services before he moved from Manteca in April 2017.
On Monday he received a check for that amount he overpaid — one cent.
That prompted DaRe to fire off an email to the city that reads as follows:
“Today I received a check from the Manteca Finance Department for $0.01 cents! I know that Manteca is growing and I can now assume that finances are fine and city budgets are of no consequence with plenty of money to go around. Congratulations on running such a successful financially sound city. I assume schools, roads, teachers, police and other city amenities are all well financed. I make this assumption based on this needless waste of a check that I received today. Other than because the city has excessive funds, why you would send me a .01 cent check, requiring a .50 cent postage cost, Plus the cost of the envelope, Plus the cost of the check itself, Plus the ink, time and your personnel handling and little regard for my time and effort?
“Your first clue that this check need not be printed should have been the dollar amount. Yes, I know that the computer was looking for a variance … but could not the program be written to ignore variances below a certain amount? The second clue should have been, when did the variance occur? We left Manteca in April of 2017. The third clue should have been that the mailing address was not in Manteca. How many of these checks went out? What was the impact – financially (all costs) and in image and reputation (both negative).”
In defense of the city, government doesn’t have the legal option simply not to refund money. That said if there is a policy or an ordinance that can legally be put in place that eliminates the need for sending refunds of less than perhaps a dollar it might be an option the city can explore. On income tax refunds and the amount owed on April 15, a state law made it possible for the amount owed or due that is in cents to be dropped off. The state move was based on a desire to reduce errors with adding up tax liability.
The city is not alone being caught in a Catch-22 of having to send refund checks that won’t even cover the 55 cent cost of a first-class stamp.
Over the years I’ve received three such checks including the most recent last year from Tenet Healthcare for an 8 cent overpayment on an emergency room visit three years prior at Doctors Hospital of Manteca after it was caught in an audit.
I did not cash the check as it wasn’t worth the effort.
It would make sense if cities and other agencies were allowed to not issue refund checks for under $1. But then again they may not have the legal authority to do so.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org