While some municipal departments have caught heat for losing money by not aggressively going after the city's debtors, the Los Angeles Fire Department is having a banner year as far as bill collecting is concerned.
A bill collections unit established nine months ago with $290,000 has collected $2 million from tardy debtors who had received ambulance or medical service from the Fire Department, Councilwoman Laura Chick announced. .
Led by Chick, the City Council voted to set aside funding for the program on an 18-month pilot basis last fall. Since then, department staffers have gone after people who have not paid after their second reminder, contacting them by phone or tracking them down at new addresses.
"I'm elated," Chick said, "not only because of the hard dollars, but because of the message that it sends to the public, that we take the efficient and cost-effective running of the city seriously."
During the past two months, City Controller Rick Tuttle has criticized the city clerk's office and city attorney's office for not trying hard enough to collect on overdue business taxes and fees. Millions of dollars have not been collected because of poor management by the city clerk's office, according to an audit released by Tuttle in May.
Tuttle mentioned one case in which the city attorney's office had received a written settlement offer of $6,000 on a business tax bill of $8,062. However, the city attorney's office did not answer the January, 1990, offer. After two years the statute of limitations expired, so the city was unable to collect.
City officials say the amount collected by the Fire Department's new program could very well reach $2.5 million by the end of 1995. Low-income residents can have their emergency medical fees waived by the city.