Decline in Municipal Court Fine Payments Hurts City Budget
Monday, October 1, 2012 • 4:51pm
PATERSON, NJ – The city’s collections on municipal court fines have dropped by almost 20 percent, down to about $4,054,000 for the past year. That reduction of $984,000 in annual revenue is one of the factors contributing to the $15.5 million increase in Paterson’s preliminary tax levy for 2013.
City Business Administrator Charles Thomas told the City Council on Friday night that the layoff of 125 police officers resulted in fewer summonses being issued. Moreover, he said Paterson has more than $7 million in unpaid fines.
But Councilman William McKoy insisted there should be no shortage of summonses in Paterson. He offered to drive with Thomas down any block in the time to point out building code and property maintenance problems that are not being enforced.
“I can stand on almost every corner and show you traffic violations galore,’’ McKoy added. The councilman urged the administration to take a more proactive approach towards boosting the fine revenue.
“You can’t just let a million dollars do without a plan,’’ McKoy said.
Thomas said the administration has several plans in place for restoring the fine money. First of all, he said, the city is about to award a contract with a collection agency to recoup the $7 million in unpaid violations pending with the municipal court. Also, he said, the state has approved Pateson’s request to hire 10 part-time inspectors in the community improvement division who will issue summons for various property violations.
Moreover, Thomas said, the city is asking the state’s permission to hire an extra 10 sanitation inspectors.
In addition to the loss of $984,000 in court fines, here’s a breakdown of other factors that city officials say have contributed to the preliminary $15.5 million increase:
- A $1.8 million reduction in Paterson’s collections on delinquent taxes
- The loss of $2.2 million in Urban Enterprise Zone money that was used to pay for some police expenses. The city’s UEZ account is almost depleted.
- A $2 million jump in employee health benefits costs
- A $1.5 million increase in fire department salaries.
- The repayment of $439,415 to the federal Housing and Urban Development agency for problems uncovered in an audit of Paterson’s 2008 program.
- A $939,446 increase in pension payments.
- A $2.9 million increase in the allocation to a cash reserve fund.