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Placer Supervisors approve writing off $20 million in court-ordered debt from county books; debtors still liable for outstanding accounts

November 15, 2017

In order to more efficiently manage collections, the Placer County Board of Supervisors today approved removing $20 million in court-ordered debt dating back from 1990 to 2007. But it doesn’t mean debtors are off the hook.

The board’s authorization removes the debt from the county’s books, releasing the county from having to actively pursue delinquent accounts for debt owed to the Placer County Superior Courts for fines and penalties tied to infractions, misdemeanors or felonies.

The approved discharge of accountability is a routine element of financial reporting and does not relieve the debtor of any liability. The county is not prevented from pursuing collection or accepting future payments.

Whenever a court-ordered fine or penalty is issued by the superior courts it is the responsibility of the Placer County Administrative Services Department’s Revenue Services Division to administer its collection.

After exhausting all collection attempts these accounts can become delinquent and deemed uncollectable because the balance is too small to justify the cost of collection or the debtor is deceased or has no assets.

The outstanding debt can still have consequences. Credit scores can be reduced, tax refunds or lottery winnings can be intercepted, or the account can be transferred to the California Franchise Tax Board for wage garnishments or bank levies.

Placer proactively pursues the collection of debt by offering multiple payment options to debtors, and regular training of employees on collection best practices. These efforts have resulted in approximately a 7 percent increase in collections over the prior fiscal year.

The county currently manages collection efforts for over 104,000 active debtor accounts totaling $117 million. Each year the county on average receives 6,700 new accounts amounting to $7.9 million in court-ordered debt.

During the past several years, Placer County has met 24 of the 25 best practices for collection programs as recommended by the Judicial Council of California, a policy-making body of California courts. The annual discharge of accountability process was the only practice not being followed consistently.

Placer County will now follow the discharge of accountability process annually in accordance with the Judicial Council’s recommended practices.

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