County sheriff believes ticket surcharge could add money, save jobs
Originally printed at County sheriff believes ticket surcharge could add money, save jobs | WSBT - News, Weather, Sports South Bend | Local News
SOUTH BEND ― The St. Joseph County Sheriff wants to turn to speeders to generate money and save jobs.
No one knows about speeding better than Sgt. John Kuhny. With 25 years of service, Kuhny says excessive speed on a certain stretch of Capital Avenue happens more often than not.
"Now and then you'll catch someone running in the 70's," Kuhny said.
As WSBT News cameras rolled, it did not take long to see someone's need for speed. Within minutes, Kuhny stopped a driver who was clocked for 69 m.p.h., exceeding the posted speed limit.
While Kuhny records the driver's information, the driver probably pondered the number of points on his license or how he'll pay for the ticket.
Officials with county police see things differently ― they see this traffic stop as an untapped resource.
"It seems every year we have problems with the budget," said Kuhny. "He [Sheriff Frank Canarecci] is coming up with different avenues for the county council and the county commissioners to look at and generate revenue."
Officials believe it is a realistic solution to the county's financial problems, and it comes at a time when county officials pushed pens, crunched the numbers and considered job cuts, Tuesday night, to offset a $2 million deficit in next year's budget.
Frank Canarecci, St. Joseph County Sheriff said after 20 cuts already carried out, there's nowhere else to trim.
"To lose 10 more as proposed would create a very difficult situation for me as sheriff," he said.
Canarecci's solution is to have speeders foot the bill to keep officers on the payroll. It was a similar measure used in an Atlanta suburb.
An ordinance was passed in 2008 when gas prices there exceeded $4 per gallon. A $12 fuel surcharge was added to each ticket. When prices went below that mark, no additional fees were accrued.
County police wrote 10,175 tickets in 2008.
Canarecci said the addition of an additional 8 to 12 dollar fee to each traffic violation could generate between $81 to $122 thousand in new revenue for his department.
Canarecci said that's equivalent to four positions.
"$122,000 is a lot of money in my book," Canarecci said.
St. Joseph County attorneys did not return repeated phone calls, so the legal questions remains on the table. Canarecci said if the surcharge is not allowed legally, he'll brainstorm for ideas.
County police have taken advantage of additional revenue streams. The fees for false-alarm calls were raised from $25 to $100, co-pays for employees were raised to the maximum allowed by law and sexual offenders are required to pay fees when they register on the sex offender database.