City writes off $437,000 in bad debt

Published 7:23 pm Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Once again, uncollected fees for emergency medical services tops the list of bad-debt write-offs for Washington for fiscal year 2015, coming in at nearly $350,000, according to city officials.

Overall for that fiscal year, the city is writing off nearly $437,000 for bad debts that are more than five years old, according to a memorandum from Matt Rauschenbach, the city’s chief financial officer and administrative services director, to the mayor and City Council members. Although the write-offs are made according to city policy, those write-offs don’t make the council members happy.

Although they did not discuss the write-offs during the council’s Sept. 28 meeting, they have discussed the issue previously. They want city officials to pursue any avenue available when it comes to collecting money owed the city, including going to court.

The latest write-offs included $85,000 in unpaid utilities bills, nearly $3,000 in miscellaneous general-fund write-offs, $1,600 in miscellaneous electric-fund write-offs and $500 in property damage to city electrical equipment, according to the memorandum.

“The EMS write-offs are consistent with past performance. Our collections represent 72 percent and are consistent with the industry norm,” reads the memorandum.

The city’s EMS collections have increased from $350,000 to $615,000 a year since the city hired EMS Management Consultants to perform billing and collection duties in 2010, according to the memorandum. Rauschenbach expects EMS collections to remain a problem for the city.

In 2013, the city wrote off $491,000 in bad debt. In 2012, the city wrote off slightly more than $1.75 million in bad debt.

The city uses several collection methods to obtain payment on the outstanding debts, but writes off those bad debts after certain criteria are met. After 10 years, unpaid assessments are written off. After five years, unpaid EMS charges, utilities charges, building-building demolition charges and other fees and charges are removed from the city’s financial books.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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