Amid criticism over an increase in the price of parking ticket fines in the city of Berkeley, recently released data shows that the city has in fact collected thousands of dollars more in parking ticket revenue this fiscal year compared to the same time last year.
The city of Berkeley collected $121,279 more — $4,876,346 compared to $4,755,067 — in parking ticket revenue in the first half of fiscal year 2012 than it did in the first half of fiscal year 2011, according to a budget report presented Feb. 14 presented at a special meeting of Berkeley City Council.
However, this 2.6 percent increase in overall parking ticket revenue is not due to an increase in the number of tickets issued, but rather because parking ticket fines in the city have gone up by $10 over the past two years.
City staff initially raised fines for parking tickets — of which there are many kinds, including parking meter violations that currently cost residents $50 — by $5 in October 2010 to fulfill a mandate from the state that made the city contribute to a state judicial fund. Though the city could have paid this fee through its general fund, the council decided to instate an increased parking citation fee in order to make up for the added cost.
Without the decision to increase parking fines, the state’s fee would have cost the city $418,000 in fiscal year 2011 and $741,000 in fiscal year 2012 from the city’s general fund.
The state imposed the fee on the city in October 2010 in order to address the Trial Court Trust Fund, a judicial program not affiliated with the city that funds the state’s filing fees and penalty assessments in the courts, according to a resolution from Oct. 2010.
Revenue from parking fines normally go into the city’s general fund, which funds the city’s police force, as well as fire and public safety in the city, according to Councilmember Gordon Wozniak.
Other Bay Area cities like Oakland and Walnut Creek have also raised parking ticket fines in order to offset program costs imposed by the state.
Julieanne Rumsey, long-time Berkeley resident, called the added state requirement “misguided” and said he does not appreciate her hard-earned money going into the state’s coffers when it should really come back to aid her own city.
“Once I put $0.35 into a (parking meter box) and nothing happened … the meter maid then said to me if that (meter) does not work, you have to go across the street and find one that does,” Rumsey said. “I thought that was ridiculous … tickets are much too high and it’s driving people away from shopping in Berkeley.”
Despite the rise in fines, the number of people ticketed in the first half of fiscal year 2012 compared to the same period in fiscal year 2011 has decreased by 5,135 — 111,229 in 2012 compared to 116,364 the year before.
“Parking tickets are an economically sensitive revenue source,” city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said. “When the economy tanks, parking ticket revenue usually goes with it, and all cities have seen that.”
The city also began a vehicle booting program — in which vehicles with five or more outstanding parking citations are booted until fines are paid — in October 2011 that has accounted for an increase in revenue in the first half of fiscal year 2012, generating approximately $324,188. The program is only a one-time revenue, according to Teresa Berkeley-Simmons, the city’s budget manager.
“Initially when we started the program there were lots of vehicles identified that were booted,” Berkeley-Simmons said. “But eventually levels will decline as people come into compliance and people pay fines.”
The most recent proposed parking policy measure in the city — which aimed to not ticket people who show up to move their vehicles while the ticket is being written — was presented at last week’s City Council meeting by Councilmember Kriss Worthington, but discussion was postponed to a later date.