Littering adds up: city collects some fines, but collections are still way below what's owed

Gladden the notion of fines collected effortlessly for things like parking tickets, code violations, real estate taxes, or say, fines for littering. At $150 a pop, the city’s SWEEP (Streets & Walkways Education and Enforcement Program) tries to keep it clean, but fines collected are still way below the targeted goal.

In his latest economic report, City Controller Alan Butkovitz ran the numbers on revenues collected for violations issued to people for improperly disposing of garbage, rubbish, refuse and plain, old litter. He said the city collected $5.1 million in Fiscal Year 2014, alone, and a total of $26 million since 2009. But many more millions go uncollected, he said – almost $70 million owed to the city since 2009 in litter fines, according to an agency receivables report by the revenue department.

CHARLES FOX / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Butkovitz: Releases report.

“The Office of Administrative Review should seek assistance from the city’s revenue and law departments to utilize their collection agencies to pursue the delinquent accounts,” he said, offering a recommendation to the default.

For this year’s litter fines collections, however, Butkovitz said the city could use that $5 million to pay for a number of things.

“The city can certainly use that money, so we worked up a few scenarios,” he said.

This year’s revenues in litter fines could pay for the hiring of 70 new police officers; or much needed electrical services and basic repairs to leaky roofs at police stations; or 20 new ALS (Advanced Life Support) machines (at a cost of $220,000 each for the fire department’s rescue squad). Butkovitz said that with $5 million from FY14, the city could completely end brown-outs, restoring full service to firehouses across the city.

“We were critical of their low collection rates in 2009 and 2012, but since that time they’ve improved their collections by 75 percent (in tickets issued),” he said.

Asked for reaction to the controller’s latest findings, the mayor’s office declined to comment, citing a fiscal year that has already closed.