Bill changes could save county money

Published 1:13 am Thursday, May 9, 2013

Two bills that could increase Beaufort County’s cost to collect delinquent child-support payments may not find enough in the N.C. General Assembly to be passed.

Tim Osborne, director of Beaufort County Child Support Enforcement, told the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Monday.

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.

“I’m going to hold off on the celebratory speech a little bit because I don’t want to jinx things. Essentially, what’s happened … as it was moving through the committees they revised the bill to exempt child-support (collection efforts) the $20 motion fee and the $15 fee that would be charged on … summonses,” Osborne said. “That’s a good thing.”

Other changes have been made to the bills, changes concerning what happens if filing fees are not paid within a specified period of time, he noted.

“The main thing is making sure we don’t have to pay the $20 fee. That’s a sizeable chunk that’s got to be paid each and every month. It could severely impact the way that the child-support program does business,” Osborne said.

The board, 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 be changed.

Last month, 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.