Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's office has launched the Local Government Collections Services Program to help municipal and county governments collect debts.

The program will operate from the government agency's Youngstown office and will target those owing at least $100 to governments and state courts, whether back taxes, court costs or overdue garbage and water bills.

Local governments that want help from the attorney general's office must ask to take part in the program and all costs of collecting their debts - projected at 10% of amounts outstanding - will be assessed the debtors rather than all of Ohio's taxpayers.

DeWine said five employees will be added to the current staff of 34. More will be added later depending on the workload, he added.

The attorney general's office has experience collecting debts owed the state treasury but, because of a change in state law, can extend that pursuit of deadbeats to help counties, cities, townships and villages that lack the resources or budget. The state office has never before collected debts for local jurisdictions, DeWine said.

"So this is something new to the local clerks of courts, to the mayors. It will take them a while to become used to it and to decide they do in fact want us to the do the collection," he said.

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