Pay up on old parking tickets or risk your state tax refund
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org February 7, 2012 6:48PM
Joliet parking meters may become debit-card friendly. | File photo
Updated: March 9, 2012 8:16AM
JOLIET — The money you owe on old city parking tickets could be taken out of your next state income tax refund.
The Joliet City Council this week signed up for the Local Debt Recovery Program that became law in December.
Basically, the program allows the state comptroller’s office to dip into income tax refunds, taking out money owed on unpaid parking tickets, water bills and other debts owed to local governments.
“A lot of it is very difficult to collect,” said Joliet budget director Kenneth Mihelich. “Right now, we’re just going to start with parking tickets.”
Even so, Joliet is looking to collect $100,000 in the first year of the program. That’s roughly 20 percent of all debts owed to the city, Milhelich said. The city probably will target parking tickets as old as 10 years.
“Most of these have been sent to collections,” Mihelich said.
The city has gone to certain lengths to collect the owed money. A few years back, Joliet would tow cars owned by parking-ticket scofflaws. At some point, however, the costs of collecting can exceed the debt, Mihelich said.
The Local Debt Recovery Program is a low-cost alternative.
Money can come out of other state checks, not just tax refunds. The program allows the state to deduct money from lottery payouts, state workers’ paychecks and vendor payments to contractors who do work for the state. But, Joliet expects about 80 percent of the revenue it gets will come out of income tax refunds.
The program is so new that Joliet is among the first local governments to sign up. Others, according to the comptroller’s office, are Chicago, Springfield, Collinsville, Sangamon County and Lake Land College in Mattoon.
It’s a good way for local communities to collect money due, said Brad Hahn, a spokesman with the comptroller’s office.
“We have been reaching out to communities across the state, and, as word spreads, we are hearing from them,” Hahn said.
There are two state payments money won’t be pulled from, Hahn said: Circuit Breaker payments used to help seniors pay property taxes and prescription medicines; and money from the state’s prepaid college tuition program.
People will get a notice when money is pulled from their checks. The money is put into an escrow account to give the debtor an opportunity to contest the debt.
But if the debtor has to pay, there’s a charge on top of the money owed. An additional $15 fee covers the costs of administering the program.