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County considers increasing traffic fines, maybe more

By Staff | Oct 14, 2009

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners approved Tuesday a public hearing for Oct. 27 in regard to doubling non-criminal traffic infractions or criminal violations to an upward fine of $30.
“In 2004, the Legislature adopted Florida statute 318.18(13) permitting counties to adopt ordinances that would impose and collect an additional surcharge of $15 for non-criminal traffic infractions in order to fund state court facilities,” according to a prepared statement by the commissioners.
The surcharge collected since 2004 has been distributed to Lee County’s monthly state court facilities fund.
This year, during a legislative session, an additional surcharge was increased to $30 for additional assistance in the state court facilities funding.
The motion of moving the agenda item to a public hearing passed 3-1 with Commissioner Frank Mann dissenting. Commissioner Ray Judah was not present.
Mann said that he had two issues with the county collecting additional money from citizens.
He said he does not agree with the “Legislature making rules and regulations and then causing the expense to support whatever they are asking to be done” without funding it.
“Instead of them raising the necessary revenue to pay for it, they are asking us to do it, and they graciously provide us with this budget mechanism with raising the fine that we can increase on our little citizens,” he said.
His second concern dealt with the budget.
Mann said the ordinance is just one more fee and tax to implement on the citizens. Even through it is only a “miserable $15,” it can add up fast and cost individuals a good deal of money, he added.
“A lot of our little citizens are going to be zapped for something this county had nothing to do with,” Mann said. “I’m tired of being the bad guy for the Legislature, who will not address these funding issues.”
Commissioner Brian Bigelow said he thought it was interesting that after they adopted the budget, the issue of raising the non-criminal traffic infractions comes forth.
“We certainly could have seen it coming and looked at this sooner and factored it in (to the budget),” he said.
Lee County Manager Karen Hawes said the proposed ordinance “is not an issue for county administration,” adding that it is the “responsibility of the Clerk in the Court system to bring this item forward.”
According to county staff, if the $30 is implemented it will provide the county with additional revenue.
Last year from October through September, 93,000 civil tickets were issued, which would amount to more than $1 million of additional revenue.
“I don’t think the issue for some of the commissioners is how much money it will generate, but the fact is that we are asking to levy it,” Commissioner Tammy Hall said. “So I think we will have a really good discussion at the public hearing.”
The public hearing will be held at 5 p.m. in commission chambers.