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Laura Curran proposes fee hikes for red light cameras, golf carts and more

Traffic moves past the sign for the red

Traffic moves past the sign for the red light camera on Old Country Road in Westbury on Aug. 18, 2011. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s revised budget proposal for 2018 contains more than $3 million in new or increased fees for parking and red light camera violations, home improvement contractors, golf cart rentals and a new distracted driver program, according to newly released county data.

Under Curran’s plan:

  • Traffic and Parking Violations Agency fees — primarily for $95 red light camera violations — will rise by 2 percent. The move will produce $1.4 million in new revenues, administration officials said.
  • Nassau will begin searching for vehicles of motorists with outstanding moving violations, to boot and tow them. Currently, that law applies to non-moving violations. The effort is expected to bring in $1 million.
  • A new distracted driver education program will require a $100 application fee that’s expected to generate $200,000.
  • Contractors seeking home improvement licenses, which cost $600, will have to renew annually, instead of every other year.
  • A $75 fee will be added to traffic tickets for people who answer summonses but don’t pay judgments.
  • Fees for parking illegally on county properties rise to $150 from $100.
  • Cabana fees rise by $200 and cabinette fees by $45 for new users at Nickerson Beach Park in Lido Beach.
  • Fees on golf cart rentals and driving range buckets increase by $1.
  • Rifle range fees increase from 50 cents to $2.

However, the Curran administration has shelved plans to increase greens fees at golf courses, administration officials said.

Curran sketched the new fees in a five-page letter to the Nassau Interim Finance Authority on March 15 that detailed $54.7 million in projected savings and revenues. Administration officials subsequently provided details of the fees.

In December, the financial control board had ordered nearly $18 million in cuts to the county’s $3 billion budget. Those cuts took effect Jan. 1, at the same time Curran took office.

The parking and traffic violations fees require approval by the county legislature, officials said.

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said majority Republicans in the county legislature probably will oppose them.

“I can tell you right off the bat, we will not be very positive on across-the-board fee increases,” Nicolello said.

Curran, a Democrat, criticized fee increases imposed by the administration of former county executive Edward Mangano during her campaign last year for county executive.

But Curran said in an interview last week, “We have a fiscal crisis in Nassau County ... We’ve got to pay for the services that people expect from their local government, and we’ve got to find a way to pay for them.”

But she said, “while I said it’s going to be painful, we are also going to be reasonable.”

Curran drew criticism from county lawmakers and residents of some South Shore communities in March when she moved to charge community organizations including Little League for using county parks. Previously, the county had waived such fees.

Responding to the complaints, the legislature voted unanimously last week to allow nonprofit youth, senior and other charitable organizations to use county athletic fields without charge.

Curran’s budget director, Andrew Persich, said the new fees and increases became necessary after Nassau was ordered to pay a $45 million court judgment for two men exonerated on rape and murder charges. The county legislature in February approved Curran’s request to borrow $23 million to go toward the payment.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said in an interview that he had some “trepidation” about increasing traffic and parking violation fees.

“The last thing we want taxpayers to feel is that we’re dipping into their pockets more and more and not enhancing public safety,” Abrahams said.

Nicolello recalled that the legislature eliminated $60 million in fee hikes in October from Mangano’s final budget.

“In general, the consensus from both sides has been that we have done too much already on the fees front,” Nicolello said of Curran’s fee proposals.

“To the extent that they’re looking to increase fees again at TPVA or parks, it’s going to be met with a tremendous amount of resistance,” Nicolello said.

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