County opposes billsPublished 11:45am Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Beaufort County opposes two bills — one in the state House and the other in the state Senate — that would increase the county’s cost to collect delinquent child-support payments by about $72,000 a year.
House Bill 343 and Senate Bill 385 propose to charge $20 for every civil motion field at the courthouse and would require payment at the time a motion is filed. The fee would also include the motion and order to appear and show cause, which is the primary enforcement tool used by child-support enforcement to enforce an order against a parent behind in his or her child-support payments.
Beaufort County Child Support Enforcement files from 300 to 400 enforcement actions monthly with the Beaufort County court system. The bills also propose to deduct the filing fee from the county facility fee if the filing fee is not paid within 30 days of filing a motion.
If the bills become law, it could result in the county losing up to $6,000 a month in facility-fee revenue, a loss of BCCSE workers, fewer child-support cases going to court, a compromised level of service for child-support clients and a reduction in incentive money used to offset the cost of running the child-support program.
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, at its April 1 meeting, unanimously approved an ordinance asking the child-support enforcement, child protective services, adult protective services and other social-services programs be exempt from the $20 motion fee and that the requirement to deduct that fee from the county’s facility fee if the filing fee is not paid within 30 days of filing a motion from the bills.
“When you start running the numbers and start looking at courts costs, somewhere between $6,000 and $10,000 a month that we would have to pay to the clerk of court,” said Tim Osborne, director of Beaufort County Child Support Enforcement.
“In the grand scheme of things … there’s a pot of gold the state’s looking at, somewhere between about $7.5 million to about $12 million that they can generate just through the increase in fees,” Osborne said.
Osborne said if the bills become law, it would significantly affect his agency’s ability to carry out its mission to collect late child-support payments for its clients.
“If we severely limit our ability to go in and serve that client base, then we remove almost … $1 million or $2 million of the money we collect for a lot of Beaufort County families. Currently, we’re somewhere in the neighborhood of about $4.8 million to $5.1 million a year to collect money.