City moving ahead with fine increase despite decision to delay surcharge

Service Alberta’s decision to delay a traffic ticket surcharge to municipalities until Sept. 1 is being welcomed, but won’t change plans to increase parking fines, says a City of Red Deer official.

Service Alberta’s decision to delay a traffic ticket surcharge to municipalities until Sept. 1 is being welcomed, but won’t change plans to increase parking fines, says a City of Red Deer official.

Russ Pye, co-manager of the city’s Inspections and Licensing Department, said the government’s announcement on Thursday that it won’t enact the $15 fee for every search until Sept. 1 won’t make a difference to city council’s decision this week. It asked administration to look at how best to raise parking fines to help pay for the additional government cost.

“Any changes that we intend to do will align with that Sept. 1 date,” Pye said.

Planning Division director Paul Meyette added the delay is good news because it will give “a little bit of breathing room to the public and to ourselves.”

Inspections and Licensing suggested raising the parking fine of $30 for an expired meter. In one case, the driver would pay $20 more, but if they paid within the first 10 days, that fine would only be $30.

The other option would be to raise the penalty by $15 so that the fine would be $45. However, those who paid early would only see a $10 reduction, so the fine would be $35.

The provincial government announced in March that it would begin charging municipalities $15 for every search done to find the registered owner of the vehicle that violated parking or speeding laws.

Based on 2010 records, that could result in about $369,750 in extra expenses to the City of Red Deer.

Municipalities and police departments cried foul over the move because it would mean lost revenue. Service Alberta said the charge is necessary to meet rising operating costs through the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week provincial government online interface. It doesn’t apply to operational policing queries.

Service Alberta Minister Heather Klimchuk said the $15 surcharge was part of the fee increases within the Progressive Conservative’s provincial budget announced on Feb. 24, but she recognizes municipalities didn’t have much time to get things in order.

“We figured that Sept. 1 would be an excellent halfway point,” Klimchuk said from Edmonton on Friday. “By then municipalities would be eight months into their budgets. The shortfall that is anticipated might not be there as much.”

She has been working with several other ministers, who are also responsible in this area, on gathering input from municipality and police groups, including the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. These groups are asking for speeding and traffic-related fine increases, which Alberta Transportation and Alberta Justice would have to put in place.

Klimchuk said the province is already seeing far more requests for searches due to increased photo radar and red light tickets this year.

The province has received about 1.5 million requests for licence plate information, compared with an average of 800,000 in 2009 and again in 2010.

“Red light and photo radar enforcement has kicked up a notch because municipalities and the police are looking for the revenue.”

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com