No mechanism in place for city to collect millions in outstanding fine revenue

The City of Red Deer is owed $2.69 million but there’s nothing it can do to collect it.

The City of Red Deer is owed $2.69 million but there’s nothing it can do to collect it.

The sum is from hand-issued tickets, and photo radar and red light camera tickets.

A report to city council this week indicated that for the past seven years, the outstanding amount of unpaid tickets has consistently been about $3 million. The problem is that the city has no control over the collection of these fines because they are administered by the province.

There’s no mechanism in place for the city to go after errant traffic violators.

To make matters worse, the province writes off unpaid tickets after several years. That meant that from July 2014 to June 2015, the government of Alberta wrote off $212,352 that should have gone to city coffers if the fines had been paid.

The report states that for eight years now, the fine revenue from photo radar has never met the projected budget.

Initially, that was because of optimistic budgeting by city policing leadership.

But the shortfall is now being blamed in part more on the strategic positioning of photo radar to help make streets safer rather than maximizing revenues.

City manager Craig Curtis told council this week that the actual revenue has not been maximized because city RCMP management has taken the safety approach rather than placing photo radar at “fishing holes” just for the revenue.

Since 2011, there has been a decrease in serious injuries and fatalities on city streets.

During the 2015 budget discussion, administration recommended that council add $900,000 in ongoing funding to the police budget to make up for the fine revenue shortfall. Council decided to add $560,000 annually instead.

This year to date, there is already a projected fine revenue shortfall of $300,000, which is expected to increase before the end of the year.

The City of St. Albert has taken to disguising its photo radar to look like utility boxes, and the equipment is operated remotely. That city defends the practice because it says it makes streets safer but some people argue it is a cash cow.

Red Deer city administration has considered various ideas to resolve fine shortfalls. These include creating a reserve for fine fluctuations, adapting speed-on-green technology at intersections, and sitting at high ticket areas and focusing on obstructed plates.

Council received the report for information only during mid-year budget review this week. However, the matter is expected to come up during the 2016 budget discussion.

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