Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano wants to tack a new $105 fee onto all traffic and parking tickets in hopes of raising more than $64 million next year to fund police department hires and cover rising officer salaries and overtime.
The “Public Safety Fee” included in Mangano’s 2017 budget proposal would, in some cases, more than double the current total of fines and fees paid by violators.
Red-light camera tickets, for example, now carry a $50 fine and $45 administrative charge, and the new fee would bring the total to $200. Most others, from parking violations to illegal turns, generally cost between $110 and $225 in fines and fees.
As a group that represents motorists expressed alarm over the new fee Monday, Mangano said it was preferable to property tax hikes that impact more people. He stressed the need for more police officers, particularly to guard against terror threats.
“It’s a specific fee with a specific purpose,” Mangano, a Republican, said in an interview, noting that some of the ticket fees would be paid by non-county residents. “It doesn’t burden the tax base.”
The $64.4 million was calculated assuming Nassau would issue roughly 600,000 tickets next year, as it did in 2015. The revenue would pay for 150 new police officers to beef up patrols, reduce overtime — which county fiscal watchdogs say may be more than $10 million over budget this year — and staff new anti-terror units.
The new revenue also would fund 81 civilian police hires, including 911 operators.
“These initiatives, in these times, need to be funded,” Mangano said.
Robert Sinclair Jr., a spokesman for AAA Northeast, which represents motorists’ interests, decried a new “public safety” fee.
“We think it sets a bad precedent,” Sinclair said. “Fines exist to serve as a deterrent for bad behavior, and there are already sufficient surcharges placed on tickets.”
Also, the fee “puts police in a horrible position — giving out tickets to fund themselves,” Sinclair said. “It would erode confidence in the police about why they’re giving out tickets.”
Nassau Police Benevolent Association President James Carver declined to comment on the public safety fee, saying it’s up to Mangano and the county legislature “to ensure that the police department has the funding to provide the services to keep the residents of Nassau County safe.
“And it’s solely up to them to determine how these revenues are generated, and if this is the way to go or not,” Carver said.
Proceeds from the $105 public safety fee account for the bulk of the $82.5 million Mangano projects to raise next year from new and increased fees across all county departments.
The county legislature will consider the fees as part of Mangano’s $2.98 billion budget. Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) declined comment. A spokeswoman said the majority still was reviewing the document.
Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), the minority’s ranking public safety committee member, questioned the ticket fee, saying it “almost banks on people to break the law.” She called it a “draconian” step after years of the administration largely refusing to raise property taxes by even small amounts.
“They’re right the revenue has to come from somewhere, but I think if they’d made all the right choices in previous years, we wouldn’t be in this position now,” Curran said.
In arguing for the fee, Mangano referred to the arrest in New Jersey on Monday of a man suspected of a bombing in Manhattan on Saturday.
“While no one is eager to pay a fee,” Mangano said, “the fact remains that we must fund this police initiative to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents.”
PROPOSED NASSAU FEE HIKES
Some of the new and increased fees proposed in Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s 2017 budget:
- New $105 “Public Safety Fee” on traffic and parking tickets, estimated to raise $64.4 million to hire police officers and civilian staff.
- Increase in mortgage recording fee from $300 to $350, estimated to raise $6 million.
- Increase in penalty on delinquent tax payment fee, from $90 to $180, estimated to raise $2.5 million.
- New $175 county administrative fee charged for the booting and towing of vehicles with unpaid parking tickets, estimated to raise $2 million. That would be in addition to a $166 fee that the vehicle owner currently pays to the tow company.
- Increase in security alarm permit application fees and fines for false alarm violations — from $100 to $150 for residential permits, $200 to $250 for commercial permits, and $359 to $528 for alarm fines — estimated to raise $1.6 million.
Source: Nassau County executive