Sedgwick County considers charging fee for garnishing employee paychecks

Garnishing an employee’s pay is a time-consuming process, and Sedgwick County wants to start charging a fee to do so.

Commissioners will consider Wednesday whether to charge employees a $10 monthly fee for certain types of garnishments, such as federal tax levies and overdue student loans, and up to $20 a month for debts such as credit cards.

The county would not charge the fee for complying with spousal or child support orders.

The county has just less than 3,000 employees.

“About 60 employees have the kind of garnishment that would be included in the administrative fee,” said the county’s human resources director, Shawne Boyd.

State law allows for the fee, which the county, until now, has not charged.

The move to charge a fee points to a county that’s working to turn around a deficit and searching for ways to recoup expenses.

“When finances are tight, we start to charge all sorts of fees,” said Ed Flentje, professor of public administration at Wichita State University’s Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs and a former interim manager for the city of Wichita.

Boyd said administering garnishments is “labor intensive and very manual.”

Garnishments are made by court order.

The county and other employers must cut a separate check to the creditor and send confirmation “that yes, we did what we are court-ordered to do.”

Boyd said the fee would help human resources recoup some of the time it spends on garnishments.

The city of Wichita does not charge its employees a fee, said interim human resources director Anne Warren.

The city has 3,204 employees, and 525 have garnishments, including child and spousal support.

Commissioner Dave Unruh said charging such a fee is “pretty standard procedure in the business world.”

“I know when I was in business and had those issues, it just aggravated the heck out of me when I had to do it,” Unruh said. “It’s a real pain to have to mess with it.”

Commissioner Jim Skelton said he was still considering the fee.

“I understand that the county is being forced to do this kind of thing because of our budget,” he said. “I’ll take a look at it. I understand the reason the county wants to do it.”

If approved by commissioners, the fees would go into effect July 1.