State demands parking fine increase

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By JASON ECK

Fines for parking violations in Sonora will soon go up.

At tomorrow's Finance Committee meeting, city officials will discuss details of a state-imposed surcharge on all parking tickets: As of Jan. 1, the state requires cities to add $1.50 to parking fines, on top of the $5 it already collects from each ticket.

Since legislation that passed in 1991, the state had been turning parking-ticket money over to counties to help them run courts and jails. But counties are no longer in charge of court operations, so the state wants the money.

City officials were surprised to learn of the increase Friday a month and a half after it was enacted when the Tuolumne County Auditor's Office told city Finance Director Pat Perry.

The City Council is to adopt the mandate Feb. 18, and it will take effect then. Overtime parking fines are to rise from $10 to $11.50, for example, and the fine for parking too close to a fire hydrant will be $51.50 instead of $50.

Perry said absorbing the $1.50 surcharge per parking ticket is not an option for the city.

Perry said she doesn't know whether the city will be required to make up the $1.50 on tickets issued since Jan. 1.

Committee members tomorrow also will consider raising parking fines on top of the extra $1.50 the state is demanding.

The city has not increased the fees for parking violations since 1996.

After the Finance Committee discusses the surcharge, it will prepare a recommendation to the City Council for its next regular meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Committee member Liz Bass, a City Council member, said yesterday she had not heard about the new fee, but wasn't surprised the state is asking for more money.

"My initial reaction is: What else is new?" Bass said.

In 1991, residents and City Council members spoke out against the $5 increase forced on the city by the state.

Council members then as now argued the state was making the city help solve its budget problems with the higher fee.

The council raised some parking ticket fines again in 1996 excluding overtime violations to help cover parking enforcement costs.

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