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Scofflaw program catches nearly 500 in six months
by Jason Collins
Jul 18, 2012 | 984 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Scofflaw program allows counties to reject vehicle registrations if taxes, fines or fees are owed.
Jason Collins photo Scofflaw program allows counties to reject vehicle registrations if taxes, fines or fees are owed.
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BEE COUNTY — It only took six months for the county’s new Scofflaw program to bring in $92,597 in unpaid taxes, fines and fees.

“Of course, $92,000 is wonderful,” said David Silva, county judge. “That is significant.”

Extrapolating it out, that could mean $184K within a year – assuming everything remains the same.

“Not everybody in Bee County will have registered their vehicle already,” Silva said.

This program, which began in Bee County on Jan. 1, allows the county to reject registration for individuals who have an outstanding fine or fee and send them to the court where money is owed. Those with delinquent taxes also can set up payment plans to settle their bills. Only after clearing or making payment arrangements can they register their vehicles.

In these first months, clerks rejected registration for 426 vehicles. All but 89 settled or made payment arrangements for their debts.

During the program’s first month, the county collected $10,115 in past due taxes.

For now, only three of the four justice of the peace courts are on the system.

Combined in Precincts 1 and 3, the county collected $1,658 in fines and fees with the highest amount coming from Precinct 3. An amount collected from JP 4 was not available on Monday; however, that court had only four registration rejections through the program during these past six months.

Fine and fee collection peaked during the month of February, with $11,461 coming into the county from JPs 1 and 3.

It wasn’t until June that the most in past due taxes was collected though.

During that month, $19,293 was collected, which is in line with the escalating prior months of $18K in May and $11K in April.

The total amount of past due taxes collected during these first six months was $70,273. The total amount in fines and fees from JP Precinct 1 was $4,787 and $17,536 from JP Precinct 3.

The total amount collected in past due taxes is only the first payment if a payment plan is agreed upon. The current software doesn’t track the additional payments.

Linda Bridge, county tax assessor/collector, was thrilled with the amount collected so far.

“We were hoping to get that much,” she said. “I think that is awesome.”

Bridge said that once their success becomes known by area county officials, she expects others to join the program.

“Once our numbers get out, more counties would want to come and implement,” Bridge said.

Bee was one of the first smaller counties to implement the program following the lead of El Paso, Dallas and Cameron counties.

Silva said that the additional money is a perk for the county’s budget; however, he reminded that it won’t always be reoccurring at this amount. Eventually, the amount past due will dwindle.

“Eventually, it will dry up,” he said.

About five months ago, the Beeville City Council approved municipal court joining this relatively new program.

For the county, the program is a free service offered by NetData – the company which handles the county’s digital court infrastructure.

While this system won’t necessary clear up all the money owed to the county, the primary goal is to help the justice of the peace courts collect outstanding fines and fees that are due them and to reduce the amount of delinquent taxes.

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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