CRETE | Village officials think they have a way to increase the amount of revenue they bring in from local residents without increasing fees or taxes: more strict enforcement of the existing fees on the municipal books.
Officials plan to place special emphasis on getting local residents who own automobiles to pay the already required $50 fee per year for a village vehicle sticker. That money goes to a fund to maintain local streets.
But Village President Michael Einhorn said there are other areas in which officials need to be more stringent with collection, including utility bills that go unpaid, along with fines and fees for services such as grass cutting and garbage collection.
“There is a large amount of money owed to the village by residents,” Einhorn said of the unpaid fees, adding that the latter issue is a particularly tricky one. “We can’t really say we won’t pick up the trash of people who don’t pay their bill, because then they’ll just dump it somewhere else and we’ll get stuck cleaning it up anyway,” he said.
Einhorn said that village trustees likely will consider these issues all throughout the summer months, and likely will develop procedures meant to persuade people to pay their village fees and fines.
“There’s far too much money sitting out there now,” he said.
The issue came up last week when the Village Board convened, and much of the focus was placed on the large number of people who refuse to buy village vehicle stickers.
Einhorn said he is aware of instances where people get caught and ticketed by police for not having a valid vehicle sticker on their cars. While they pay the fine assessed by the ticket, they still refuse to purchase the vehicle sticker.
One issue to be determined is exactly how many automobiles need to have a vehicle sticker. Crete’s total estimated population in 2012, according to the Census Bureau, is 8,281 people.
Einhorn said the village clerk’s office sold about 5,000 vehicle stickers in 2012, and that he believes at least 1,000 more vehicles owned by Crete residents ought to have valid stickers, but do not.
The end result financially for Crete government is that the municipal budget anticipated about $260,000 in revenue from vehicle stickers, but fell about $40,000 short.
It used to be that when vehicle stickers were sold for $25, automobile owners who did not purchase them by Aug. 1 saw the fee tripled. Anyone who still had not purchased one by Dec. 1 saw a 500 percent increase in the cost.
But in 2010, when the vehicle sticker fee was raised to $50, any semblance to a late fee was removed. Einhorn said the Village Board will consider resurrecting a late fee beginning in 2014 for anyone who doesn’t purchase a vehicle sticker by July 1, which is what many surrounding suburbs already do.
Trustees wondered if creating a fee would motivate people to buy the vehicle stickers in a timely manner. But Einhorn said some people are just determined not to purchase them. And attorneys advised the Village Board the cost cannot be attached to other services.
Nor can the police force people to buy vehicle stickers when they pay the fine, because that would fall under civil matters rather than criminal.
Police Chief James Paoletti said it might be possible for the village to approve an ordinance allowing for the “Denver boot” to be applied to automobiles in Crete found without valid vehicle stickers.
“You could go that route, if you want to pay the cost of hiring a service that would search for vehicles,” Paoletti said. “Put a financial burden, it might help with compliance.”
But Einhorn said he is not inclined to want to go that route. In fact, he even suggested at one point that the $50 fee be reduced.
“I’d be willing to drop it (by) $10, if it meant that everybody would buy the stickers,” he said.