Controller Wendy Greuel made her usual “continuing her efforts to reduce the City’s budget deficit” announcement today, extolling the results of her delinquent taxpayer program – nearly $5.33 million has been collected since its inception.
But stop and think. Outstanding fees amounted to $559 million as of December 31, 2009. Only 20% of that total was current.
Anyone familiar with collections knows recovering receivables gets more difficult the longer they age.
The $559 million took some time to build up, so what was Greuel doing about it when she was on the City Council? Apparently watching it accumulate.
As a member of the Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, she was well aware of the city’s growing structural deficit. It would have been nice had she used her position to battle for changes in the collection process.
Collecting amounts owed does not require rocket science. Persistence is the most important factor along with organization. High-powered, costly IT applications are not necessary for success, even for the scope of the problem facing the city.
So why didn’t Greuel, along with the mayor and her colleagues on the City Council, address it over the years? Too lazy to deal with re-engineering of the collection process? Too ignorant? Didn’t want to face the prospects of layoffs from the consolidation of multiple collection departments?
Billing and collection is about as basic as you can get. If you set up a sensible process with management follow-up, the cash will flow.
It appears Greuel’s method is to chase after the fleeing horses, but not secure the stable doors.
Were it not for the budget crisis, I doubt if Greuel would have lifted a finger. She would have let $559 million ride if times were good and revenues were flush. After all, who cares if that kind of money goes uncollected when tax revenues are rolling in?