A recent meeting by the Board of Supervisors ended with a one-year deal that allows Pioneer to track down those people who owe the county money. Pioneer has plenty of experience collecting money, as it is a branch of Sallie Mae, the student loan company, and has also done work collecting for the Department of Education and the IRS. The firm says its recovery rate is about 40 percent, compared to an industry average of only 20 percent.
The Circuit Clerk, Dale Thompson, appeared at the Board of Supervisors meeting and said that the county needed outside help because they had tried and failed to solve the problem internally. The clerk said that the county had done all it could to collect criminal fines and has made little progress.
The criminal fine system says that once a person falls three payments behind schedule, they are technically placed on a delinquency list. However, being moved to such a list does almost nothing to ensure payment. While it is possible that people who are on probation and are in arrears can be arrested on a bench warrant and thrown back in jail, it’s very hard to find these people as their addresses almost always change once they are released.
Thompson says that since the 1990s, DeSoto County has amassed at least $3.6 million in past due fines. When you include court-ordered restitution, state fees, clerk fees and court costs the total then jumps by another $5 million.
The Board of Supervisors determined that allowing Pioneer to handle collections while keeping on the delinquency fees was a win-win for the county and the company. Whether having a private company calling and harassing residents of DeSoto County qualifies as a “win” for the rest of us remains to be seen.
Source: “DeSoto Supervisors let Pioneer firm blaze trail to collect overdue fees,” by Henry Bailey, published at CommercialAppeal.com.