JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In a time when every buck counts, millions of dollars are being left untapped.
Local cities are slashing their police forces and cutting firefighters salaries. Now, a budget saving solution is on the horizon, but local leaders aren't stepping up.
Gabe Sims makes sure he feeds the parking meters. "If I don't, I'll get a ticket." When the time expires, people get tickets. But Action News found out, not everyone is paying those fines or other traffic citations. That's millions of dollars owed to local governments. At a time when police are being laid off, firefighters salaries are being cut, that's money that could help the budget deficit.
That's why we asked how much money is outstanding from unpaid traffic and parking tickets in Clay, Duval and St. Johns counties. St. Johns and Clay Counties gave us the numbers within a day of receiving the request and they're big. It's more than 2.3 million in Clay County and 2.6 million in St. Johns County.
It's a different story in Duval County. We made a written request last Tuesday and a week later, a public information officer for the City of Jacksonville sent us a short email, saying it would take six hours to compile this public information and we would have to pay $450. "Seventy-five dollars an hour, seems like a high number. The rate alone raises some issues," said attorney Bob Dees.
Dees is a first amendment lawyer that does work for Action News. He says state law allows governments to charge for public records requests, but the charges must be reasonable. "You asked for information and it looks initially that they didn't want to give it to you," said Dees.
Action News asked Mayor Brown on Wednesday why the city didn't know the tab of unpaid fines. He wouldn't comment then. Thursday, we got another email from a city public information officer saying, after further clarification, it wasn't going to take six hours and the city did have the number. It's 1.3 million dollars in unpaid fines. For the record, we didn't clarify anything.
After so many days, counties do send unpaid fines to collection agencies and your license is also suspended.