Parking fines might double in Janesville
That was Janesville City Manager Eric Levitt's thinking behind a recommendation to the council that it double parking fines.
Some council members at the first 2012 budget study session Tuesday asked to discuss the proposed increase in parking fees at a future meeting. Also at a future meeting, the council will discuss and vote on Levitt's suggestion to leave two police department positions vacant.
The council has three more study sessions scheduled to consider Levitt's proposals to close what was a $1.5 million gap. To maintain most services and preserve jobs, Levitt proposed a wheel tax of $10 a vehicle. The $550,000 raised would offset some of the cost in the general fund to maintain streets.
The total budget is about $42 million, just under a 1 percent increase. But the tax levy increase is about 2.6 percent because of declining revenue.
Levitt said he estimated doubling the parking fines would bring in about $45,000 in additional revenue. The city in 2010 collected about $60,000.
But he said he hoped that is overly optimistic, preferring that the bigger fines would deter parking violations, especially those that protect health and safety. Those include parking in front of a fire hydrant or parking in the street during a snow emergency, he said.
Some current fines include:
-- $10 for overtime parking.
-- $20 for parking in the street during a snow emergency.
-- $20 for parking in a no-parking zone.
-- $10 for parking in a leased parking zone.
-- $40 for parking in a handicapped stall.
The city hires two Blackhawk Technical College students to work two 10-hour shifts to patrol parking. Their pay is about $8,500 a year.
At least one council member, Yuri Rashkin, said he was unsure about doubling the penalty.
He suggested that the overtime-parking tickets remain at $10 while the other fines increase. Councilwoman Kathy Voskuil also asked that staff come back with comparisons from other cities. She believed that Janesville's parking fines are low.
In the past, some downtown business owners championed increased fees to assure on-street parking for customers.
But Jim Alverson, who owns Home Again Consignment Home Furnishings downtown, said the answer to the downtown parking shortage is not increasing fees.
Rather, parking times should be increased from one to two hours, he said. One hour barely gives customers time to have lunch and certainly doesn't give them time to check out other businesses as they return to their vehicles, Alverson said.
The city should increase downtown parking, especially on the west end, he said.
Voskuil and Councilman Russ Steeber also asked the council to consider returning one police position to the budget.
Chief David Moore said the 103 sworn officers in the 2012 budget are the fewest since 1998.
"The demands and the complexity of the law environment is far greater than the late '90s," he said.
With the reductions, residents might notice a slower response to non-emergency calls, he said.
The crime prevention specialist position has been vacant for more than a year and police officers have filled in, Moore said. But resources remain focused on the inner city neighborhoods, and he fears other neighborhoods are not as well connected with that position vacant.
"One day, this economy will turn," Moore said. The jobs will come back because the community has good schools, great parks and a good government, he added.
"We see our fit as keeping the community safe," he said. "If we keep it safe, people will come. If we don't, people will go somewhere else."
The next study session is 7 p.m. Thursday in City Hall.