Fighting gas prices, cops increase violation fine
Related article: High gas prices hit many departments hard
By Jose Pagliery
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATLANTA — In an effort to offset the rising cost of operating police vehicles, the Holly Springs City Council on Monday night approved a $12 increase in all fines for those who commit moving violations.
Also on Monday, an Atlanta City Council member suggested Atlanta do the same thing. The Atlanta Police and Finance departments will examine the feasibility of the move before the council votes.
Holly Springs, in Cherokee County, will put the new law into effect July 1.
Holly Springs police Chief Ken Ball estimates revenue from the increase, after state-mandated fees are applied, will generate $19,500 to $26,000 per year. This year's expected revenue is $9,750 to $13,000.
Mayor Timothy Downing hopes the extra revenue will be enough to cover the rising cost of gasoline. According to City Manager Robert Rokovitz, 59 percent of the $45,050 allocated for fuel use in 2008 had been used as of Monday.
However, the town went through its gas money quickly for reasons other than rising prices at the pump.
The city originally approved only $38,050 for the Police Department's vehicle fuel use in 2008 --- $3,500 less than the department used in 2007.
The city even had to amend the 2007 budget, adding $7,000 to make up for that year's shortfall.
"We try to tighten the belt," Downing said, adding that Holly Springs city government did not realize their goal of reducing the budget.
"We didn't foresee any of these monumental gas increases," he said.
The Police Department, Downing said, expected to reduce fuel costs in 2008 by replacing one of its Ford Crown Victoria police cars with a Dodge Charger.
"[Fuel efficiency] broadcasted by Dodge was not realized," Downing said.
"We didn't do anything wrong. We set a goal. We're responding now to the market pressures," he said.
Ball promised that the city was not considering "some kind of police tax for regular calls."
Before the measure passed, the police chief urged council members to consider lowering or doing away with the fine if gas prices returned to last year's levels at $3 per gallon.
In Atlanta on Monday, City Councilman C.T. Martin proposed a $10 to $15 surcharge Monday on motorists found guilty of speeding and other moving violations to help offset rising fuel costs to operate city vehicles. Martin said the charge would stay in effect until gas prices "are at a more reasonable level," which was not defined in the legislation.
Copyright 2008 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution