HOUSTON – City officials are creating a new centralized unit to collect unpaid fees and fines that total almost $1 billion, Mayor Annise Parker said Wednesday.
The mayor doesn’t expect to collect every outstanding fine, but she said even 30 percent would drastically help the city’s bottom line.
"I really don't have any sympathy for folks who flagrantly violate laws and think they can get away with it," she said.
On Wednesday, the mayor’s office released a list of the city’s worst debt offenders. UPS, for example, owes the city almost $120,000 in parking fines. FedEx owes about $22,000.
One woman even owes more than $5,800 in library fees.
So that's why the mayor wants to centralize the city's collections process. Right now, the city contracts with six outside vendors to collect those fines. Apparently, that's not working.
"We need the money,” said council member Brenda Stardig. “We need to prevent more layoffs and more furloughs. I just don't want to see any of our employees impacted because we failed to do our job."
There’s been talk about strengthening the collections process for years. Former council member -- now Harris County Treasurer -- Orlando Sanchez brought it up 15 years ago. He says the city should be careful.
"The wheels of government move slowly,” Sanchez said. "It wouldn't be good for the city to start up a whole new bureaucracy."
The mayor says it won't become a bureaucracy because she will staff the new collections unit with existing employees.