County Eyes $25 Fee To Reverse Check-bouncing Trend

Government Receiving Bad Checks For Small-ticket Items

March 08, 1992|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

A catcher's mitt would be a rather extreme solution.

But the county comptroller is looking for a way to deal with the growing number of rubber checks bouncing around county government these days.

The increase in bad checks, issued by citizens purchasing minor items from the government, has prompted the county to consider a penalty fee for returned checks, said Eugene C. Curfman, the comptroller for Carroll.

Though not yet an epidemic, the bad-check situation isa ballooning problem,Curfman said.

In years past, the county has gotten about one or two bad checks a year.

But in the past seven months, some 130 rubber checks have dribbled into the comptroller's office, Curfman said.

Last July, when 38 bad checks were submitted, was the worst recent month.

Since then, about 15 a month have beenreceived, Curfman said.

"We've never had nearly as many as we're having now," he said.

The recession-wracked economy, which has left many people out of work and short of money, is probably the primaryfactor in the rise in bad checks received by the county, Curfman said.

The penalty fee being considered is $25, Curfman said.

"If people know there's a fee, they might think twice about doing it," he said.

Last week the commissioners said they supported the idea of charging a fee for bad checks.

Curfman said he will return in the coming days with a draft document outlining a policy for dealing withbad checks.

"It costs us money and it's an administrative headache," Curfman said.

"The bank charges us for returning a check and the taxpayers end up shouldering the cost. They shouldn't have to do that."

Typically the bad checks are being issued for small-ticket items offered by the county, such as maps, home-improvement permits, and copies of the county's plumbing and electrical codes, Curfman said.

Also, landfill fees and water and sewer bills have attracted badchecks.

However, there's been no problem yet with bad checks accompanying property tax bills, Curfman said.

"The taxes don't worry me," Curfman said. "Those are hard for people to escape."

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