City budget woes spur increase in parking tickets

Students with cars on campus may have to be more cautious about observing parking regulations in the fall, as the city is planning to increase its parking ticket revenue in the tight budget planned for the next fiscal year.

While the city will bring in $4.3 million from parking tickets this year, the budget for 2005-2006 counts on $9.5 million, New Haven Traffic and Parking Director Paul Wessel said. Part of that difference is simply an accounting change: Towing expenses will be counted under expenditures next year instead of being deducted from ticket revenues. But even taking this change into account, Wessel said the city is planning to nearly double its parking ticket revenue.

The increased revenue is expected to come from two sources: giving more new tickets and collecting on the roughly $11 million in outstanding unpaid tickets stretching back to 1993, Wessel said.

To accomplish its fiscal goal, the city will separate the collection and enforcement functions for parking tickets. The Finance Department will take over collections, previously handled by Traffic and Parking, enabling parking officers to focus on ticketing. The city hopes to increase its collection rate, which has traditionally been roughly 80 percent, Wessel said.

In addition, the city will hire two new parking officers to ensure that regulations are enforced in areas the city has not been able to effectively patrol due to understaffing. The city aims to implement regulations to protect the rights of residents to park in residential areas where parking demand exceeds supply, in particular the areas around Yale-New Haven Hospital and Science Hill, Wessel said.

“People should see more enforcement officers on the street, and people should be getting more frequent collection notices and more quickly,” he said. “There’s no intention to target Yale students more than anyone else, but if we all do the jobs that we’re paid to do properly, the outcome of that will be a safer city with more revenue.”

New Haven Director of Public Information Derek Slap said the increase in ticketing is not intended to make parking a “hassle.”

“It’s not just handing out tickets, but it increases mobility in the city,” Slap said. “It actually makes it easier for everyone to park if people are abiding by the meters and not parking illegally.”

Slap said the city is actually working to make parking more convenient, in particular by instituting a “smart card” payment system that enables people to load cash on a card that can be used at parking meters as well as garages and some local shops. The city is currently planning to convert some existing parking meters to accept smart cards this summer.

A sophomore who requested anonymity said he has not paid for the city’s mandatory parking permit because he does not think there is a large risk of getting caught.

“As an out-of-stater, my impression is that they have absolutely no idea that I’m here or for how long I’m here,” he said. “So I don’t see any reason to alert them of my presence, since I don’t think there’s a punishment for doing otherwise.”

In another effort to protect the city’s revenue stream, last week the city decided to change a minimum tow policy that previously prevented motor vehicles whose owners owed less than $100 in taxes from having their vehicles towed.

In a memo issued to city officials, New Haven Controller Mark Pietrosimone argued that the minimum tow policy had to be repealed in order for the city to meet its tax collection goal for the year. He said the cumulative taxes owed on the vehicles the city has had to pass over towing in a three-week period due to the minimum tow rule has been over $10,000, in addition to roughly $3,000 in parking tickets that would have been charged on those vehicles.

“The main reason why we changed the minimum tow policy was that we were noticing a dramatic change in tax collections,” Pietrosimone said. “Our weekly revenue dramatically changed from the time that the minimum tow policy was implemented.”

Pietrosimone said he was also concerned that the minimum tow policy seemed to have prompted a drop in voluntary tax payments by city residents.

Acting Budget Director Frank Altieri said the city’s focus on collecting motor vehicle taxes is nothing new. Altieri said the city’s tax collection rate has gone up from 84.5 percent in 1994 to a projected 97.86 percent for this year.

“We aggressively collect our taxes to make sure that what we budget for our taxes, we collect,” Altieri said.

Faced with a tight budget, the city is counting on collecting additional revenue in the 2005-2006 fiscal year from expired parking meters.
Betny Townsend
Faced with a tight budget, the city is counting on collecting additional revenue in the 2005-2006 fiscal year from expired parking meters.

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