Collecting fines, fees, restitution payments, welfare overpayments and other bills owed to Sacramento taxpayers can be challenging, and supervisors at the Department of Revenue Recovery pull out all the stops to find new and effective ways to motivate staff.
“Calling people to collect money all day long can be tough,” said Connie Ahmed, Director of Revenue Recovery. “Customers can be very angry with our agents, and dealing with this day in and day out requires stamina. With more than 500,000 accounts worth nearly $600 million to local taxpayers, what we do is essential to government operations, and we do whatever it takes to keep our employee morale and collection results as high as possible.”
Supervisors ask employees what kinds of incentives they would appreciate and the result is a mixture of prizes including food, gift cards and even California Lotto tickets. No public funds are used to purchase the approximately $200 a year in incentives because employees hold fundraisers and management staff also chips in.
Contests can last from a few hours to all month or even yearlong. The winners are announced to everyone by e-mail and two large TV monitors in the front of the rooms. When food prizes are awarded, food is provided for the entire department. Staff is notified and is aware that these are not County sponsored events.
“We know these incentive contests work,” said Martie Cornwell, Assistant Department Director, “because our collections continue to remain high. In Fiscal year 2012/13, $41.3M was collected -- $2.6M over budget and $1.6 M over the prior fiscal year.“ Agents are directly responsible for $10.9M in delinquent collections and that is about $100K increase over the prior fiscal year, she added. “In addition to maintaining collections, providing a positive work environment is critical to attracting and maintaining quality collection agents. This is our way of rewarding staff for a job well done and less turnover means lower costs and higher results.”
Examples of fees collected include:
Public Defender - repayment of legal services
Voters Registration – candidate filing fees not paid
Environmental Management - storage and disposal of hazardous material violations
Health and Human Services - repayment of services provided at County medical clinics
Human Assistance – Overpayments to CalWorks, CalFresh, and General Assistance programs
Recover employee wage and Workers Compensation overpayments and costs for unauthorized personal use of County property such as phones, vehicles, etc.
“Providing fun incentives and prizes to our staff helps us collect money that is owed to taxpayers, and helps the County continue to provide services,” Ahmed noted. “We will continue to look for innovative methods to keep our staff performing at top levels, all at no cost to tax payers.”