With California’s $20 billion deficit, additional fees are not only being imposed on schools, but on traffic fines as well.
SB 1407 was signed into law in 2008 through the California State Legislature, raising the fees for court filings statewide, which includes parking tickets, traffic violations and attending traffic school.
Since January 2010, new fines on traffic violations took effect through SB 1407. For instance, one added change is a $35 “conviction assessment” on traffic fines.
The fine for a first offense violation on disabled parking provisions is now $976, failure to stop at a red light costs $436 or a $148 ticket is issued for driving while using a wireless cell phone instead of a hands-free device.
This stimulus bill for the courts plans to raise $5 billion for constructing and renovating over 50 courthouses throughout California. Seventy percent of the assessed fine goes to the State Trial Court Trust Fund, and 30 percent goes to the County General Fund. In some counties, such as San Bernardino County and Riverside County, traffic fines can be even more expensive due to a local surcharge.
Philip Carrizosa, spokesperson for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said the California legislature approved this bill in order to come up with funds to renovate and build courthouses without impacting the state’s general fund.
“The revenue generated by increase court fees, penalties and assessments will benefit all Californians by providing for better and safer courthouses without any effect on the state’s general fund,” Carrizosa said.
Yolo County is benefiting from the increased traffic fees, as a new courthouse is being funded in Woodland from this stream of revenue. The estimated cost of the entire project in Woodland is $172.9 million and is going to consolidate six insecure and unsafe facilities into one location, increase operational efficiency in the court, and expand their overall services.
“The residents of Yolo County will enjoy a new courthouse that will replace six aging and overcrowded facilities that are among the worst in the state in terms of security,” Carrizosa said.
Although no one likes to pay more for traffic violations, Carrizosa believes the legislature chose to reform the mechanism that provides funds for California courthouses because the courts have been in poor condition statewide for a number of years.
Trying to offset SB 1407, as well as the financial stress from budget cuts, Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) implemented new fees on citations over a year ago said Clifford Contreras, the director of TAPS.
“The university has a lower citation rate in comparison to local areas, like the city of Davis or Woodland, so it is not a substantial change to our revenues,” Contreras said.
A citation for a parking ticket increased from $30 to $40. This source of revenue allows funding for additional transportation demands and management measures, he said.
De Lu, a junior optical science engineering major at UC Davis, has already been issued nine traffic tickets in 2010 and believes the school should not issue expensive tickets to students and should offer alternative ways to pay off tickets, such as community service.
“There should be public parking for students, or at least a first-time courtesy or something,” Lu said. “I think the city and the school are trying to find more opportunities to collect outrageous fees.”
MICHAEL STEPANOV can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.