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Port Chester Looking to Collect on Almost $6 Million in Unpaid Parking Tickets

An amnesty program could bring in as much as $500,000 in unpaid parking ticket fines, according to Republican trustees.

Drivers owe Port Chester almost $6 million in unpaid parking tickets, and now trustees are hoping to recover some of that cash with an amnesty program.

Like other towns and cities, Port Chester is looking for new sources of revenue during a still-sluggish economy. The village processes fines through ComPlus, a Tarrytown-based contractor. According to figures from ComPlus, there were $5.8 million in unpaid fines as of earlier this year.

After a long-fought budget process that will reduce the amount of revenue the village collects through property taxes, elected officials believe a well-publicized amnesty program could bring in as much as $500,000.

"There's money out there and if we don't go after it, we'll never know what we could have collected," said Trustee Sam Terenzi. "To me, it's a no-brainer."

Terenzi said he's had preliminary talks with Village Manager Christopher Russo and hopes to have details on the amnesty program ironed out by early June. Such a program is unlikely to launch over the summer, but could begin as early as this fall as out-of-town drivers and Port Chester residents return from vacations and time off.

Some early ideas floated by Terenzi include waiving late fees so drivers with outstanding tickets can settle their accounts by paying only the original fines, or reducing fines by a set number -- around 40 percent -- to encourage scofflaws to pay up.

Amnesty programs have enjoyed a revival during the recession, as towns, villages and cities across the nation look for new sources of revenue and elected leaders cope with their own budget shortfalls and reduced aid from federal and state government.

In Hartford, city officials signed off on an amnesty program for the first time in the city's history, waiving all late fines and court fees in an effort to encourage drivers to pay up. The city collected more than $200,000 in fines on delinquent parking tickets, according to the Associated Press.

Even big cities across the country, like and Cincinatti, are trying out amnesty programs in an effort to collect tens of millions in oustanding fines. Some of the figures are staggering -- in Washington, D.C., elected leaders are considering a similar amnesty program to recover at least a portion of an estimated $300 million in unpaid parking tickets.

Typically, amnesty programs are publicized with notices, stories in local media, and letters mailed to drivers who have overdue tickets.

Although the numbers are smaller for a village like Port Chester, officials say collecting the money is crucial -- and Port Chester is already depending on at least some revenue from outstanding tickets to balance its books. At last week's , the board's Republican trustees were criticized for already counting $200,000 in parking fines among projected revenue.

"The more prudent thing to have done would be to plan an amnesty program but not bank on the revenue," Mayor Dennis Pilla said this week. "You don't know that you can depend on that revenue."

Trustee Daniel Brakewood said he supports efforts to increase revenue by going after parking ticket scofflaws, but warned against counting on that revenue before it's collected.

He compared it to similar efforts to collect fines via the Department of Code Enforcement. In a similar situation, the board budgeted for $200,000 in revenue from code enforcement fines two years ago, but more than 12 months passed before money from fines began coming in.

"Don't count your chickens before they hatch until you have actual evidence that that money is coming in," Brakewood said at last week's meeting.

Police Chief Joseph Krzeminski urged trustees to be cautious.

"All I'm saying is, we need to research," he said when trustees quizzed him during the budget meeting.

Some of that research includes determining how much of that $5.8 million figure is composed of original ticket fines, since late fees would likely be waived under an amnesty program. Terenzi, an accountant in his day job, said he believes the original fines could add up to more than $2 million. Trustees are expected to take a closer look at the numbers as they debate the issue in upcoming meetings.

Regardless of the political discussion, drivers with unpaid tickets should expect a notice in the mail before the end of the year -- the board's Republicans have a majority, and Terenzi said he'll push for the amnesty program now that the village's budget has been passed.

"We'll see who's right and who's wrong at the end of the day," he said.

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jennifer Goldman May 09, 2011 at 11:31 PM
Why don't they start giving jaywalking tickets? They would make Port Chester safer at the same time they generate revenue.
Concerned View May 10, 2011 at 11:52 AM
Why don't they have a police officer managing the traffic flow at key intersections during rush hour and the weekends? They should assign 3 at S Regent and Rte1; 1 to direct traffic and 2 to give out tickets.
Peggy Johnston May 10, 2011 at 12:33 PM
Over how many years has this 5.8 million total accrued? Why was there no process for collecting these fines? Even if the collection process was farmed out, it would have produced $$$ and not cost more than not collecting them at all! United Hospital closed its doors due in part to their horrendous acounts payable debacle. They never billed or recovered fees for tens of years! What else besides the parking ticket debts are there, which were never collected? Enforcement fines are pending collection. Parking meter proceeds are lost with no recourse for payback or retribution from the thieves. The building dept was shut down for unspecified causes? How many fees were swept under the table or pocketed there? Who exactly has been watching the till in the village? How could millions of dollars of uncollected fees have been overlooked and carried over on "the books?" This is a disgrace and shows the total disregard for the residents of Port Chester. It is a little bit like the French Revolution where the aristocracy prospered and the peasants who had no money for bread were told "let them eat cake!" What a helluva solution!
Bob May 10, 2011 at 01:02 PM
That could pay of a LOT of our debt....
Nik Bonopartis May 10, 2011 at 08:05 PM
At last week's meeting, some noted that since Port Chester is a border town, it's likely that quite a few of these tickets were issued to drivers who do not have New York State licenses. Then there are the other out-of-staters – they may not have Connecticut licenses, but if they're from a place like Vermont they probably don't care if they have a fine in New York. And then there's the issue of drivers who cannot become licensed in New York, but acquire licenses from states where identification standards are lower. For instance, people in law enforcement say they see lots of drivers with licenses from North Carolina, which has more lax standards than New York. This is cyclical, as some states correct the process and unlicensed drivers move on to the next-easiest place – a few years ago, it was easiest to obtain a Pennsylvania license, and police would see an unusual number of cars with PA plates on the road. I think the Hartford amnesty program is interesting, since the program has run its course and it provides some hints on what to expect if PC goes through with a similar plan. In that case, Hartford recovered 10 percent. If PC does the same, that's still a good chunk of cash and around that $500,000 mark that Trustee Terenzi and co. are hoping for.
Cadeyrn May 11, 2011 at 12:26 AM
I agree, the BOT should be cautious about the actual dollar amount that might be generated by such a program. But, what's not to like about this effort? And Peggy's right ... there is no excuse for this issue going unattended for such a long period. None.
Gary sullivan May 11, 2011 at 01:47 AM
I am also hopeful but be cautious the budget passed showed a net positive of 200k for the year. No expenses were put in budget and to get this up and running might take a while. Government at work. I haven't heard if the millions of uncollected is high or low compared to other villages. Could be great revenue but could be throwing good money after bad. It had never come up prior to the budget passing. Let's hope it works out or we dig into our fund balance for whatever expenses we incur. Also an unknown number. Just a different way of budgeting. Some like best case scenarios and others are more conservative. Time will tell which was right on this program. My guess is it will net a positive in 2012 budget not this year. Hopefully I am wrong.
leck May 11, 2011 at 04:20 AM
Or why not give out tickets for people parking in fire lanes? Anytime one goes by Pathmark or Stop & Shop, one can see multiple cars pulled up by the door in the fire lanes. God forbid we have another fire like the one on Midland Ave and the fire trucks can't pull up to the building because the fire lanes are blocked.
Bart Didden May 11, 2011 at 04:07 PM
If Dan Brakewood and the Mayor Pilla had their way I would have been brought up on ethics violations for speaking with the vendor in the first place. Not only did the Village Management and the Mayor have no clue as to the outstanding amount but neither knew who was in charge with managing the relationship with the vendor. Who is on first? Or better yet, who is providing the much needed leadership? Certainly not our Mayor who has served 5 of his 7 years on the Board.
Gary sullivan May 11, 2011 at 07:01 PM
Looking at it from another viewpoint. You passed a budget with a plus 200k line item with no expenses and without a clue if these are normal percentages. How long they have been around. it is a great catch. Why wasn't it given to professional staff to look into and come back with a recommendation? That is the way to motivate employees to get the job done. It is also the proper role of a board in my opinion. Challenging them is great. Stomping on toes is a policy I stay away from as a manager of people. At least the first time something is brought up. Motivating employees to be on there toes is all your jobs. You are failing on that front. Glad you found an opportunity but again you handled it poorly. Just one opinion. Anyone else agree?
Bart Didden May 11, 2011 at 08:36 PM
No. But while I am here I will tell you this, you don't know me, you don't know my style & I don't believe that you ever will. Your assumptions are so wrong that this forum has come to the point of being worthless to everyone who wants to exchange ideas rather than spin. I will not give up the professional staff members that did not have any knowledge to how the contract was set up, how the program was administered or who was in charge of the relationship with the Vendor much to their surprise. As to your qualifications as a manager to evaluate my methods or style, I don't know & I don't care to know. It must be nice knowing that you are always right and the four members you have a disagreement with are always wrong, even if you form those opinions from second hand data and the absence of facts such as privileged memos. You are unwilling to believe that your Democratic brothers could foster an atmosphere which is detrimental not only to the betterment of the Village, but the working ability of the BOT as a whole. Your posts here travel the spectrum from thank you to how dare you and have reached the plateau that a response is nothing more than a grand waste of time. So Mr. Sullivan, spin spin spin it as you wish. I will continue to serve and do my best for all the residents by continuing to reduce everyone's taxes, promote safe housing and maintain a level of services that our taxpayers can afford and recognize the value in.
Gary sullivan May 11, 2011 at 09:17 PM
Someone is a little testy when being held to his own standard of accountability. hope we don't raid the fund balance with the budget you passed. I don't know if we will or not. your style is pretty evident. I would say it is a good thing you own your own company and get to make up the rules as you go. Just one persons opinion. Don't be upset. It has obviously worked for you so far.
Al Dente May 17, 2011 at 03:51 AM
Puhleeeease. The self-aggrandisement in the previous post is too much to bear.
Cadeyrn June 01, 2011 at 08:46 AM
http://www.lohud.com/article/20110601/NEWS02/106010343/Greenburgh-rakes-cash-from-years-old-traffic-tickets?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Frontpage|p PC isn't alone ... other towns are goin' after old tickets, too

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