City officials looking to collect $90 million in court fees and fines
Sep 24, 2009
Sep 28, 2009
Local leaders have been tightening the city budget waistband for months and now they're turning to the municipal courts for more revenue. City officials say millions of dollars in court fees and fines have still not been paid but could help ease budget pains. It sounds like a good idea to get people to pay their fines, equaling millions of dollars for the city's use. But a local judge says it's not likely city officials will ever see that money again no matter what they do. “We started trying to find out where we could get more revenues from the city. We decided to look at municipal courts to see how they were doing with their collection,” says Council Member Cindy Liendo Espinosa. A search for money to help boost the city budget lead city officials to find 90 million dollars in fees and fines issued by the municipal court which are still outstanding. “We found we do need to be more aggressive there.” Council members are now asking for the city to hire a collections agency to see to it that people pay up. “Ordinance violations, traffic violations, health and safety…all the way to 2-thousand dollars” says Judge Alfonso Ornelas. “Not everyone seems to agree with the city official's efforts. Judge Alfonso Ornelas says with some of the best compliance rates in the state, a new collections agency may not make a difference.” “If they can collect what we can’t collect into Mexico or out of state ones, then I think that would serve a very good purpose,” says Ornelas. Ornelas says the courts and law enforcement already do as much as they can to try and collect the millions. “Right now we are sending letters. Police do go about arrests warrants and DPS is working so they don’t issue licenses to people that owe on these tickets.” And unless something drastically different happens, money spent on a new agency he says, would be a waste. Still city officials say something has to be done. Judge Ornelas says requiring passports at ports of entry has also helped collect fines and fees. In order to get a passport, all previous tickets must be paid off. And, as a result, the judge says people have been fixing tickets owed from as early as 1997.