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Surprise: Parking fees could rise

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City officials locally and across the state are scrambling to figure out how to deal with a new state-imposed parking ticket surcharge that could soon add as much as $9.50 to the price of every citation.

Although it was passed a year ago as part of a bill dealing with court facilities and took effect Jan. 1, the requirement came as a surprise even to leaders of the California Public Parking Association, the trade group that follows parking-related issues.

Robert Horch is not only parking services manager for the City of San Luis Obispo, he’s also legislative chairman of the association. Even he didn’t know about it until after the law took effect.

He said he hopes to learn more following a workshop later this month, but confirmed that the bill could have the city tacking $9.50 to the price of a ticket. The city wouldn’t keep any of that money; it would instead go toward various court funds.

“I hate the thought of raising any kind of fees,” he said. “It’s going to look like it’s coming from the cities, and that’s something we don’t want.”

Mark Coppes, parking supervisor for the City of Pismo Beach, said he’s also hoping for clarification at the workshop and agrees it could mean a $9.50 surcharge.

Other cities across the state haven’t waited for clarification, and have already passed on the fees to ticket payers.

Chad Lynn, president of the association, said some cities will only be tacking $4.50 to tickets because they’d already been adding a $5 fee based on prior mandates. San Luis Obispo isn’t in that situation.

Lynn said his city, Beverly Hills, added the $4.50 surcharge in February.

“Every city is somewhat different … There’s a lot of ambiguity on this.”

What isn’t ambiguous, everybody seems to agree, is that cities will eventually have to pay the state money based on the number of parking tickets they issue. The only question is how much, and whether the cities will absorb those costs or pass them on to ticket payers.

Horch said that the law justified adding the ticket prices by the fact that some tickets get appealed into the court system.

How many? In calendar year 2008, he said, of 27,600 paid parking citations in the city of SLO, just three ended up getting appealed into the court system.

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