Saint John council looks to increase parking ticket fines
Increase all but approved as it's already been counted in city's budget, deputy mayor says
The City of Saint John is hoping to get more money out of parking violators through fine increases.
The changes to parking fine bylaws passed first and second readings Monday night with a unanimous vote. The final vote is expected to take place at the next council meeting.
If approved, the initial fine for an expired meter would increase from $20 to $30. A municipal bylaw infraction such as parking when there's a snow ban would increase from $30 to $40.
If the car owner does not pay within 16 days, the fine would increase by $15. After 30 days, the fine would increase by an additional $15.
Marc Dionne, operations manager at the Saint John Parking Commission, said there hasn't been an increase to parking ticket fines since 2012.
"I'm just going to let that sink in for a minute. Nine years without an increase," he told council.
There are two exceptions to the planned increases.
The fine for parking in a handicap space remains unchanged at $125, regardless of when the fine is paid.
While the fine for parking in a bus zone would increase from $50 to 60 for tickets paid within 15 days and $75 to $90 if paid between 16 and 30 days, there would be no change in the fine amount after 30 days, which would remain at $100.
The parking commission issues about 20,000 tickets a year, Dionne said, which generates approximately $600,000 in revenue for the city.
He said this increase could generate approximately $127,000 more.
Dionne said compared to Fredericton, Moncton and Halifax, Saint John has the lowest parking ticket fines, except for traffic bylaw tickets in Halifax.
Dionne said about 30 per cent of tickets end up going to court, as people don't pay them after 30 days of receiving them.
Coun. Donna Reardon expressed concern that unpaid tickets cost the city more money as it has to pay for legal costs. Dionne said the planned increases before the ticket gets to court cover that additional legal expense.
Deputy Mayor Shirley McAlary said the city has no choice but go ahead with this increase as it's already been included in the 2020-21 buget. The city has been trying to cut costs and increase revenue to deal with a $10-million deficit.
"This is one way the city can obtain some extra money, even though it may be a burden for some people," McAlary said. "I don't see where we can do anything really but going ahead with this, because this is part of the budget that we talked about for the last number of months."
The city has previously approved a free hour of parking uptown for users of the HotSpot parking app.
"Throw your toonie in the machine and you won't get a ticket," Mayor Don Darling said.