City Hall is always being criticized for wasting money, but what if there was a big pile of money out there that the City was entitled to and they weren't chasing it down? As it turns out, the City has $14 million out there from uncollected fees and fines, and their stepping up their collection effort by bring in a third-party agency.
The City announced in a press release today that they've hired a third party agency to track down approximately 31,000 outstanding cases tallying $14 million in uncollected fees and fines related to Provincial Offences charges issued in Guelph-Wellington.
“Nearly two-thirds of all individuals who receive a ticket in Guelph-Wellington pay the fine in a timely manner or exercise their option for a trial,” said Brad Coutts, general manager of Court Services, in the release. “Less than 15 per cent of all fines go into default, meaning they are forgotten or ignored. Fine collection serves to uphold the purpose of the enforcement of laws in the community and preserves the integrity and authority of the justice system.”
This is a big issue for cash-strapped municipalities, collecting outstanding fines. In 2013, the City of Brantford started putting unpaid fines on people's property tax bills, but as of 2015 they still had more than $13.5 million in fines from provincial offences still owing. That same year, the City of Brantford prepared a report that said across Ontario, in 50 municipalities, over $1 billion was owed for various unpaid provincial fines, with over $40 million in Kitchener-Waterloo alone.
As for Guelph, this has been on the current mayor's agenda since before he formally took office. At the time, Cam Guthrie said of the City's $5 million backlog of unpaid fines, “I would rather do that than try to tax more. [...] “We would love the money (and they) owe it anyway, so let’s get going.”
And going the City shall get though it's acknowledged that the process of chasing down upwards of 20-year-old fines may not be an exact science. Family members of people that died with unpaid fines may soon get a rude awakening.
“It is not the City’s intention to upset or cause harm to family members through this process. We are contacting individuals based on the information on record with the court,” added Coutts. “Where family members receive notice of collection, we ask that they contact the collection agency so that the status of the court file can be verified and updated accordingly.”