WEST COVINA - City officials claim they are being shortchanged in traffic citation revenues from the county.

For the current fiscal year, finance officials anticipated about $1.1 million from traffic-related tickets issued by the West Covina Police Department, Councilman Mike Touhey said.

But in the first six months of the year, West Covina has only seen net revenues of about $300,000, Touhey said.

"We've issued more tickets, but we've received less money," Finance Director Thomas Bachman said. "We're trying to get good information from the county to determine if there is something in the distribution that is not correct."

County officials - who attended a special meeting Thursday to address the issue and tour the Big League Dreams recreational facility - said they didn't know where the city was getting its numbers, but would work with it to provide raw data.

"I can't speak to whether errors are being made," said Steven Smith, chief accountant in the accounting division of the county's Department of Auditor-Controller. "There are formulas in place that have been distributing the revenues for years that haven't changed."

The city gets about 87 percent of the fines paid to the courts after West Covina police issue a traffic citation, such as a moving violation or a fix-it ticket, Bachman said.

In 2005-06, West Covina police issued more than 8,000 tickets and received $736,000 in revenues, police Administrative Services Manager
Alex Houston said. In 2006-07, about 11,000 tickets were issued but revenues were only $626,000, he said.

"How can we issue 3,000 more tickets and make $100,000 less?" Houston said, adding that the Police Department noticed the discrepancies a few years ago.

Based on numbers Touhey had seen, he said the city may have been shortchanged as much as $2 million in the last five years.

"One of the problems is just because a citation is issued, that doesn't always relate to the fine being levied," Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said.

Often times fines get reduced, citations get thrown out or payments get forwarded to collections, Smith said.

"It can take a year and a half to two years to see money coming in," Smith said. "There's a lag time."

County records indicate traffic citations have increased, and the city should get about $100,000 more in revenues this year versus last year, according to Smith.

Regardless, Touhey said he believes the city might still be losing revenue.

"Even if we do get more money," he said, "that's still a lot less than what's budgeted."


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