Houston sees good in bad debt

wcrenshaw@macon.comJuly 15, 2014 

Houston County commissioners wrote off some bad debt Tuesday, but they seemed happy about it.

They have praised county employees for helping finances by keeping spending down, but it turns out some of them are pretty good bill collectors to boot.

In the annual practice after the fiscal year ends, the board voted to write off bad debt for trash collection and the water system. But it was such a miniscule amount that they agreed it was about as little unpaid debt as they could hope for.

The water system has $17,021 in uncollected debt out of $5.7 million in revenue, while trash collection has $9,261 of bad debt out of $2.5 million in revenue. For the second year in a row the landfill had no unpaid debt with $3.2 million in revenue.

That amounts to a 0.3-percent rate for water and 0.37-percent rate for trash collections.

“It’s incredible,” Commissioner Larry Thomson said. “I spent my earlier days in finance for a big company and 1 percent was the goal.”

Operations Director Robbie Dunbar said he talked about finances to someone who works with local governments around the state and was told the county would rate in the top 2 percent in the state for debt collection.

Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said the write-off is done to finish off the books for the fiscal year, which ended June 30. It does not mean anyone who hasn’t paid their water or garbage bill in the past year is off the hook, however.

“Don’t let anybody think we are just throwing this in the trash and forgiving the people who owe it,” he said. “We will probably get some of this money in the next 12 months.”

While the landfill gets most of its revenue from local governments, it also has many private businesses such as construction companies that bring in waste and pay a per ton fee. The landfill has about 200 billed customers.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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