City falls short of fine targets
By: Cory Hare
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 19, 2011 06:00 am
The city is adjusting its forecasting after falling well short of projections for enforcement fines.
Last year the city fell $395,000 short in its projections for fines from the RCMP and $366,000 for municipal enforcement penalties. Both revenue streams are made up largely of dollars from speeding violations.
The shortfall is due to several factors, including overly optimistic forecasting and a shortage of “boots on the street,” said Chris Jardine, general manager of community and protective services.
Administrative staff knew by about mid-year that revenues were off-track and began digging for answers, Jardine said. He found the department actually hadn’t hit its targets for the last five or six years but hadn’t adjusted its budgeting.
“Unfortunately, we had blindly built our budgets based on the previous year’s budget numbers even though we hadn’t hit it,” Jardine said.
A more thorough analysis found the city’s revenue per ticket has come down. This means people are speeding just as often but aren’t exceeding the limit by as much.
The city’s forecasts also hadn’t accounted for tickets being withdrawn, quashed or reduced by the court system, Jardine said.
“Going forward, we said we’d be dreaming if we think we’re actually going to generate this level of revenue based on the more scientific analysis of it,” Jardine said.
Another factor behind the missed projections is the fact that the traffic unit is usually where the police will “carry vacancies,” meaning they take officers off traffic duty to ensure they have enough for general duty, Jardine said.
The city has reduced its 2011 projections to account for the realities highlighted in 2010, he said. For 2011 the department is projecting revenue of $605,000 from RCMP fines and $500,000 from municipal enforcement, Jardine said.
Photo radar is a separate line item along with red light and speed on green violations. Altogether, these are expected to bring in $2.5 million in 2011.
On the other side of the ledger, the city saved $305,000 in RCMP expenses. There were three factors: credit back for police members seconded to the Vancouver Olympics and the G20 summit in Toronto, credit back for a billing mistake related to a member on extended sick leave, and the fact that the detachment wasn’t fully staffed, Jardine said.
Mayor Nolan Crouse has several times expressed his displeasure with missed forecasts within the fine revenue realm. A few years ago council approved the hiring of another municipal enforcement officer under the premise that it would be revenue neutral. But that hasn’t happened.
Crouse recently asked for a breakdown of the type of fines the city levies and how much revenue is generated from the different types.
“I’d like to see the big picture,” he said. “It’s hard to deal with it at a money level unless you understand where the money is coming from.”