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Paying court fines on installment plan

A collection clerk is making a dent in delinquent court fines and, just as important, encouraging defendants to pay current fines, reports St. Croix County Clerk of Court Lori Meyer.

For the first nine months of 2008, net revenue from the position was nearly $139,000, said Meyer.

"Looks like we did something right," said County Board member Buck Malick, commenting on the decision to add the clerk. He figured the money spent on the position is paying off roughly at a 4 to 1 ratio.

After a pilot project by Child Support Agency workers in 2007, the court collection clerk position was created and the clerk began Jan. 1.

The woman spends half her time pursuing delinquent accounts and half her time working with defendants, as they leave court, to develop payment plans.

"The new collections position has been very successful," said Meyer.

In the first nine months of this year, $143,908 was collected as a direct result of the clerk meeting with defendants, assessing their ability to pay and enforcing payment plans, reported Meyer.

She said the cost of the position for the time devoted to that work was $19,440, resulting in net county revenue of nearly $124,500.

The balance due on those payment plans is about $190,000 -- money that is coming in monthly increments.

About $4,000 was also collected because defendants requesting a payment plan are charged a fee. Meyer said charging the fee prompts some defendants to pay their fine upfront and avoid the extra charge.

The clerk has also actively worked delinquent warrant cases and pursued wage assignment collections, thus collecting another $29,000, reported Meyer.

The nine-month cost of the position was $38,800.