Drivers caught speeding in this north Atlanta suburb soon will have to pay an extra $12 — to cover $4-a-gallon gas costs for the police officers who stop them.
The City Council passed the fee hike, effective July 1, to offset fuel prices that have eaten up nearly 60% of the police department’s 2008 fuel budget, Police Chief Ken Ball says.
He expects the fee increase, which applies to all moving violations and can be rescinded if gas prices fall below $3 a gallon, to generate $19,500 to $26,000 a year for the town of 7,700.
Ball says he was seeking ways to maintain patrols despite record high gas prices. “I was hearing that Delta (Air Lines), pizza deliverers, florists were adding fuel charges to their services, and I thought, why not police departments?” he says.
Atlanta might be next. Monday, the City Council approved by a 13-0 vote Councilman C.T. Martin’s proposal to add a $10-$15 surcharge for motorists convicted of speeding and other moving violations, Martin says. “I want to recover the cost of the extra gas … without raising property taxes,” he says. The legislation awaits Mayor Shirley Franklin’s approval.
Other cities could follow. Ball says he’s being “inundated” by calls from police chiefs and city managers. “I’ve heard from at least a dozen police chiefs and half a dozen city managers,” he says of the measure passed Monday night. “They want to know how we did it, and could we send them a copy of the ordinance.”
Wendy Balazik, spokeswoman for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, says she’s not aware of any other cities adding such a surcharge. “But it makes sense,” she says. “Law enforcement agencies are already facing a number of financial pressures, and rising fuel costs can’t help the situation at all.”
The National League of Cities says it is unaware of other cities adding such fees.
The national average cost for a gallon of regular gas was $4.078 Tuesday, according to auto club AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.
Katie Harris, 20, a babysitter and student at Georgia Perimeter College, doesn’t like the new fines. “It always seems like government officials are trying to take money from citizens’ pockets,” she says.
Holly Springs Mayor Tim Downing says: “This is a self-taxing system. If you don’t break the law, you don’t pay the tax.”
By Larry Copeland, USA Today