Clark County pays $260,000 in late fees on power bill
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Nevada’s largest municipal government, Clark County, racked up $260,000 in late fees because its clerks repeatedly failed to pay the county’s electricity bill on time from January to June, a newspaper reported.
According to information disclosed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the county missed its due dates because of the time it took accounts payable clerks to review charges for the county’s 4,200 electrical meters.
“The Nevada Power billing is large and complicated,” County Comptroller Ed Finger told the paper. “It takes a lot of time to manually review it.”
Finger also blamed delays stemming from the switch to a new county computer system. The county pays for powering its public buildings, traffic signals, street lights and other devices.
Carole Vilardo, president of the nonprofit watchdog group, Nevada Taxpayers Association, said the large late fees raised questions about how well the county was handling its finances.
“I find that extremely disturbing,” Vilardo said. “In what other ways are they not efficiently managing taxpayers’ dollars? That’s money that could be used to provide services or programs.”
Finger said the payment delays were an isolated problem that has since been resolved and the account is no longer in arrears. “Now we pay first and review after, because we can dispute charges after paying,” he said. “We have to get it, get to it and process it quickly.”
Mitigating some of the loss to taxpayers, Finger said the money owed to Nevada Power was in county coffers earning interest during the past due period. Also, county finance officials estimate they’ve saved taxpayers $3 million over the past three years by using vendors’ discounts for early payment.
Nevada Power has received most of the county’s late fee expenditures to utilities over the past three years.
The county paid Cox Communications about $500 in late fees since June 30, 2003. Southwest Gas assessed the county $3,517 in late fees over the same period.
In addition to charging the $260,000 in the first six months of this year, Nevada Power charged the county another $151,000 in late fees over the prior 30 months.
The total of about $425,000 in late fees to utilities over the past three years represents “a drop in the bucket” of the $4.2 billion in payments the county made during that period, Finger said.
“I’m not trying to downplay it; $425,000 could build square footage at Child Haven,” Finger said. “But we’ve also saved the county millions of dollars through taking advantage of vendor discounts.”