City's Parking Citation Profits Decline as Businesses Struggle

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Correction Appended

Already preparing to shoulder drastic reductions in state and federal funding in the 2011 fiscal year, the city of Berkeley is also expecting a decrease in revenue from parking citation fees, which city officials attribute to the efforts of those living and shopping in the city to avoid tickets and save money.

When the Berkeley City Council adopted its fiscal year 2011 budget last summer, projected revenue from parking fines was $9.7 million. However, when the council adopted its mid-year budget adjustment Feb. 15, the projected revenue was cut down to $9.5 million - a $200,000 decrease.

Overall, the city's general fund faces a $1.8 million deficit, as revenue from many sources - including parking fines, sales tax and other business taxes - is also declining.

According to city Budget Manager Teresa Berkeley-Simmons, funds generated by parking fines have decreased due to a decline in the number of parking tickets issued. Starting in 2007, when 297,527 parking citations were issued, each consecutive year has resulted in fewer citations, with only 232,404 issued in 2010.

The trend also holds true for cities like San Francisco and Oakland, she said.

According to city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, fewer cars have been parked in the city in the past year, reducing the number of violations of parking regulations. Parking fines are economically dependent, meaning they fluctuate with the economy, she said.

"There are fewer cars in the spaces when business is slow," said Al Geyer, chair of the Telegraph Merchants' Association and owner of Annapurna.

As Berkeley businesses continue to struggle to draw customers, the city's revenue from parking garages and meters - all in addition to that of parking citations - is also on the decline, according to Councilmember Kriss Worthington. He added that people may not have the means to go out and shop.

Though Worthington said the decrease, at only $200,000, is not in itself a large amount or worry, Clunies-Ross said it may pose a difficulty for the city in light of the fact that many revenue sources are also down.

Parking citations are mostly issued by parking enforcement officers for expired meters, according to Councilmember Darryl Moore. People may simply be more conscientious about getting tickets due to the economic climate, as "no one has the money to pay the fines out," he said.

The city already increased its parking citation fees by $3 in October 2010, although it did not see a correlated increase in revenue. Even faced with the decline in projected revenue, Worthington said he does not expect the fees to increase any more in the near future, as any such measure would be counterproductive and could further drive down business in the city.

"The solution is not to raise the fine, the solution is to raise more customers," he said.

To do so, Worthington said the city should market itself as an unique tourist destination - an idea he said has been well-received in district community meetings.

"If we increase the number of customers dramatically, some of them will pay fines - those who are fined will contribute their fair share," he said.

Tags: BERKELEY CITY COUNCIL, CITY BUDGET, 2011 FISCAL YEAR, PARKING CITATIONS

Correction: Wednesday, March 2, 2011
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the city increased parking citation fees by $5 in October 2010 to bring in $280,000 in additional revenue. In fact, the city increased the fee by $3, which did not result in any additional revenue for the city.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Weiru Fang at [email protected]



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