For a variety of reasons, many cities see their budgets stretched to the maximum even in the best of times. However, when they face economic challenges, they seek new ways to generate revenues. Frequently, filling their coffers comes on the backs of citizens, tourists, and those passing through town who find themselves pulled over by a police officer.
Municipalities are well aware that increasing the number of fines can put them on the fast track to eliminate revenue shortfalls.
In addition to traffic citations, enforcements and forfeitures make up a significant amount of income that funds equally substantial budgets. To catch motorists committing alleged traffic violations when police officers are elsewhere, “speed traps” and traffic cameras often keep a watchful eye. A study by Governing revealed:
- In 600 localities, fines make up more than 10 percent of general fund revenues
- In 284 communities, financial penalties make up a fifth of their general fund revenues
- In more than 720 cities, annual revenues represent an average of $100 for every adult resident
- Some areas exceed traffic fine revenue dictated by state laws
Areas that struggle with limited tax bases and cities with independent local municipal courts account for many of the highest rates nationwide. Poor people who struggle financially simply cannot afford the extra burden on household budgets.
The revenue generation is no longer under the radar. The media and politicians are taking notice. Several states are already dealing with lawsuits challenging their monetary overreach. That brighter spotlight has forced many city officials to review and dial back their onerous fee structures.
While that is good news for those on the other side of citations, municipalities accustomed, if not addicted to revenues generated through fines will have to find another “fix” that will help them make ends meet.
Much like the citizenry cited and now struggling to pay the fines.