N.C. cities want DMV to block registrations for parking scofflaws

mquillin@newsobserver.comMarch 3, 2013 

The city of Raleigh hopes to recoup about $350,000 a year in unpaid parking tickets by getting the state Division of Motor Vehicles to block car registrations for parking scofflaws.

The measure most likely would come in the form of a state law that could mean additional revenue for the parking programs of cities across North Carolina.

“It’s a good chunk of money,” said Paul Meyer, director of governmental affairs for the N.C. League of Municipalities.

The change also would improve Raleigh’s chances of collecting some of the $3.9 million in unpaid parking tickets still on its books dating to 2006, said Gordon Dash, the city’s parking administrator.

Legislation under consideration, Dash said, would likely allow cities or counties to work with DMV to collect fines from drivers who have three or more parking tickets that are at least 90 days delinquent.

Marge Howell, spokeswoman for DMV, said the division was unaware of plans to involve it in the collection of old parking fines. But the division already can block vehicle registrations for nearly a dozen reasons, including debts owed to DMV, unpaid child support, unpaid county vehicle taxes, lack of a passing inspection, lapsed auto insurance and for a vehicle that’s been reported stolen.

Dash said Raleigh would also like the legislature to drop a provision that says parking authorities can only place boots on such cars when they are illegally parked. As it is, he said, city parking enforcement staff often spot cars whose drivers owe as much as $2,000 in overdue fines and penalties, but they can’t boot the cars to force the owners to pay because the cars are parked legally when they find them.

In North Carolina, revenue from government-owned parking programs must be put back into the operations of the programs. Small towns and rural areas may not invest much in a parking operation, nor collect much from them. But bigger cities have parking lots and decks that can cost millions to build, maintain and operate.

Cities including Charlotte, Greensboro and Wilmington have expressed support for the change.

Right now, Dash said, Raleigh has $120 million in outstanding debt on its eight downtown parking decks. Usage of most of the decks has dropped considerably with the economic downturn, he said, and revenues have fallen accordingly. Last year, the program didn’t make enough money to pay for itself. Dash said it most likely won’t break even this year, either.

The city issues about $1.8 million in parking tickets each year, mostly in and around downtown, and about 73 percent of those eventually are paid.

“This would really give some teeth to our enforcement efforts,” Dash said, and could increase the rate of collections to as much as 90 percent.

About 10 percent of parking tickets are written for cars registered out of state, Dash said, and some of those drivers also disregard follow-up notices and referrals to collection agencies. Within North Carolina, the city began working last year with the state Department of Revenue to deduct overdue parking fines from offenders’ tax refunds.

Quillin: 919-829-8989

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