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Nevada State Board Of Finance approves debit card payments for collections


by Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: The Nevada state Board of Finance today voted to make it easier for those who owe money to the state to pay their debts.

The board voted to give state Controller Kim Wallin the authority to allow those who have outstanding debts to pay by debit card. The controller’s office is now the central point for collection efforts as a result of legislation passed in 2009 that seeks to do a better job of collecting what is owed to the many different state agencies.

It had previously been voluntary for agencies to turn over old debt to the controller’s office for collection, Wallin said.

But the collection efforts are sometimes hampered because the controller’s office cannot accept payment except in the form of a check or cash. The debit card option will soon allow people to pay over the phone and on-line. Debtors choosing to use a debit card will also have to pay a $5 fee.

The option should be available within about two weeks over the phone and next month online via the controller’s website, which is in the process of being redesigned.

“What this does is it allows the agencies to concentrate on providing services for our citizens and not have to be worried about the back end of it; to collect it,” Wallin said. “Anything to get the money in here quicker is better.”

The effort to collect the outstanding debt comes as the state is facing a severe financial crisis in the upcoming two-year budget.

Assistant Controller Mark Taylor said the office expects to see about 200 debit card transactions a month with an average value of about $250.

The office has not yet sought the use of credit cards for payment, but Wallin said that option will be pursued as well.

Those who owe the state money will soon receive some public attention, whether it is wanted or not.

Wallin said that in September her office will be posting the name of every individual and entity that owes the state money on the controller’s website. The names will be available for the public to view in yet another effort at improving transparency in state government, she said. The list will be updated monthly.

The list of debtors is for money owed that has gone uncollected over time, by at least 60 or 90 days and often much longer.

The debts can range from a few dollars owed by a paroled inmate to hundreds of thousands of dollars owed by a financially troubled company, and include delinquent taxes, fees and fines, judgments, overpayments, and tuition. Money is owed to all types of state agencies, from the Division of Forestry to the Department of Corrections.

The controller’s office is working on about $72 million of uncollected debt. Much of what is owed the state is likely uncollectible, but every effort is being made to recover as much as possible, she said.

In testimony to the 2009 Legislature in support of Assembly Bill 87, Wallin said her office takes on about $7 million a year in debt, but only about 11 percent of the debt valued at less than $25,000 and only 4 percent valued at $25,000 or more is collected. The new law, which is intended to improve these efforts, received strong support from the Legislature.

Wallin said she wants to work with cities and counties to assist them in collecting debt as well. Nevada governments cannot afford to leave money on the table, she said.


Audio clips:

State Controller Kim Wallin says centralizing debt collection in her office makes sense:

081610Wallin1 :11 to collect it.”

Wallin says state and local governments can’t afford to leave debt uncollected:

081610Wallin2 :07 on the table.”

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