Many people know that parking tickets and speeding/ traffic tickets constitute an important part of a city’s funding. However, they may not know that some cities lose almost all the money either on certain types of tickets or even all tickets. This is because the money from a traffic ticket does not just go directly into the city’s coffers. Instead, it is parceled out to various different agencies and funds, and a certain part is returned to or kept by the city.
Let’s discuss in the subsequent paragraphs, some of the ways in which various cities and municipalities lose money on tickets.
1. Ticket funding goes immediately to higher-level government.
In some cities and counties, all of the revenue from the tickets written in that area goes to the county or state. The higher-level government then parcels it out as they see fit. This can result in some cities getting more funding than they “earned” through tickets and others losing out. However, this method does help in ensuring that all cities or counties have adequate funds necessary to provide services, even if they cannot write as many tickets. As such, in these types of cities, ticket revenue has little or no bearing on the area’s funding.
2. Traffic camera programs cost more than what they bring in.
In some cities and counties, traffic camera programs cost more than they earn. This can be surprising to some people, since they catch a lot of traffic offenders and bring in plenty of revenue. The programs are just so expensive that what they bring in is not always enough to make up for what they cost.
Cities typically contract with outside companies to provide the traffic camera equipment and sometimes even the personnel to run it. These companies make money but the cities don’t always get a part of that money. It tends to depend on the type of contract that the city has with the camera operating company. In some cases, the city pays a flat fee and loses money or only breaks even based on the number of tickets they write. In other cases, each ticket is divided between the company and the city according to an agreed-upon percentage.
Still, these programs remain popular both because they are seen as a safety measure and because they make the state money. For instance; in Arizona, the state takes 84 percent of every ticket, including the ones issued because of traffic cameras. So, even though the cities bear the burden of paying for the traffic camera systems, the state benefits from every additional ticket written because of them.
Some cities turn around and put all of their traffic camera ticket revenue into installing more traffic cameras. Although the cities that do this are technically making money, they are not profiting from them. Because of the cost of traffic camera programs, it can be difficult for big cities to adequately cover their roadways. Instead, they expand their programs slowly in this manner.
3. Most of the revenue earned in some cities goes to fund the court system.
Courts also have to be paid because not all criminals are in a position to bear the cost of their own trials. One of the ways that courts are funded in some states is through the money made from issuing traffic tickets. Courts and court-related expenses that these tickets fund include:
- State court systems
- County court systems
- City court systems
- Judicial information systems
- Judges’ salaries
4. Operating costs are higher than ticket revenue.
Because so much of the money from each ticket goes to other government agencies and outside companies, it is easy for the operating costs of the police department that writes the tickets to be higher than what they receive. The cost of maintenance and repairs on the police vehicles, the salaries of the officers, the information management related to issuing tickets, paying to send officers to court and providing training can easily be more than the total funds received through fines in a given period of time. It is easy to see how this is the case when a city writes only 200-500 tickets per month, yet has 5 officers performing this task.
5. A large percentage of the ticket goes to a state fund.
In some areas, certain tickets go into state funds that are used to launch safety campaigns and compliance crackdowns. For example, as much as 50 percent of the money made from tickets for seat belt offenses or texting while driving goes to a state public safety fund in some states. These funds are used to create ads informing people about the dangers of not using seat belts as well as fund the additional manpower used to crack down on offenders.
To conclude, we must understand that the traffic department does not issue tickets just to earn revenues and make easy money. It entails a lot of underlying issues which include promoting safety on roads and making citizens aware and responsible.