Ticket info fee angers municipalities

The City of Red Deer is crying foul over the provincial government’s decision to charge municipalities $15 for every parking, photo radar and red light camera ticket issued on city streets.

The City of Red Deer is crying foul over the provincial government’s decision to charge municipalities $15 for every parking, photo radar and red light camera ticket issued on city streets.

As of Friday, municipalities are being charged to find out the registered owners of vehicles involved in parking or speeding violations. The ticket can then be sent to the owner.

Red Deer city officials are joining counterparts across Alberta who are unhappy because they say the fee will cut into policing budgets.

“It has a significant impact,” said Community Services director Colleen Jensen.

Jensen said the announcement from Service Alberta came by letter to Red Deer RCMP Supt. Brian Simpson on March 11 — three weeks before the change came down on April 1. There was no hint of the fee in the provincial budget on Feb. 24, she added.

Service Alberta spokeswoman Sharon Lopatka said the fee is necessary because costs in providing these services have steadily increased.

“We just can’t keep absorbing these costs,” said Lopatka on Friday. “We’ve been seeing a steady increase in the demand for information from municipalities across Alberta and they’ve been exempt from this fee until (now). It will put them on the same par as other stakeholders accessing the same search services.”

Traffic enforcement fines, excluding parking violations, generated $109 million across Alberta last year.

“We estimate the new fee will generate about $12 million for the provincial government,” said Lopatka.

Overall, it’s anticipated that the 2011 financial impact of this change is estimated at nearly $720,000 to Red Deer city operations, based on the number of tickets issued in 2010. This breaks down to slightly over $350,000 on the RCMP side for photo radar and red light tickets — and nearly $370,000 for the Inspections and Licensing Department.

And with a second photo radar vehicle coming to Red Deer streets in July, the impact will get even higher during a full year of tickets in 2012. This hit is estimated at $927,000.

Jensen said the city may have to invest over $350,000, for instance, into the policing budget, likely through a municipal reserve, or cut policing services.

Jensen said they would be unable to pass the $15 fee onto speeders through their tickets because the city isn’t mandated to increase ticket fees. The potential is to work with Alberta Transportation on increased ticket fees.

The $15 fee could be passed onto parking violators, but this would require a change to municipal bylaws.

Staff will ask city council on Monday to continue to work with municipalities and the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, so that the province can see what kind of negative impact this would make.

Provincewide, the impact is expected to be around $21 million on policing budgets.

“It was really a surprise to us — with no discussion with our municipality or any other municipality,” said Jensen. “Optimally, we would just like to see it dropped.”

The charge of $15 per search would be for every ticket issued. A significant number of tickets do not get paid, so the municipality may or may not receive any fine revenue from the ticket.

Last year, photo radar and red light tickets generated $2,197,000 in Red Deer, and that revenue was used to offset policing costs. The 2011 operational budget also included a $300,000 shortfall in traffic fine collection for 2011 because people aren’t paying up.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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