Nassau County Legislature Debates $105 Increase in Traffic Violation Fees

If the Public Safety Fee is passed, the cost of a red light camera ticket would more than double from $95 to $200.

By Anisah Abdullah and Maggie Cai

The Nassau County Democratic and Republican committees will meet on Oct. 13 to discuss a proposed $105 increase in traffic and parking violation fees as an alternative to raising county property taxes.

The Public Safety Fee is part of Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano’s proposed budget for 2017. This fee is intended to raise $64.4 million for police department hires and cover rising officer salaries and overtime. This new source of revenue would fund 150 new police officers and 81 civilian police hires, Nevin said.

“The unprecedented times in which we live require an increase in our police force to protect the safety and welfare of our residents,” Mangano said in a statement. “The budget institutes a Public Safety Fee on traffic violations a portion of which is collected from non-residents while not increasing taxes which is good news for homeowners.”

If the fee is passed, any driver who receives a traffic or parking ticket in Nassau County would be required to pay this new fee on top of the $50 state fine, starting next year. The cost of a red light camera ticket would more than double from $95 to $200.

In the most recent review, 72 intersections in Nassau County have red light cameras in operation. The county would need to issue roughly 600,000 tickets, the same number as last year, charging an additional $105 per ticket to fund the $64.4 million.

“I would rather the taxes go up and fees go down,” Vincent Grande, a Nassau County resident, said. “They are going to charge me around $100 either way so I would just rather they put it into my property taxes because I get to deduct it in my federal income taxes.”

Democratic legislators have been vocal about their opposition to this proposal.

“The fees are the result of the county government’s unwillingness to make tough choices over the past several years,” Democratic legislator Laura Curran, who is leading the opposition, said. “So now we are faced with these draconian and hard-to-justify fees being tacked on to parking and traffic tickets.”

The Republican majority declined to comment on the fee as they are still reviewing the budget, Matthew Fernando, a spokesperson for Norma Gonsalves, vice chair for the Budget Review Committee, said.

“It is being considered, it is on the table,” Fernando said. “That doesn’t mean that it is going to be in the final budget, just that is is something that the legislators are considering at this time.”

The Nassau County Police Department has the largest department payroll in the county which totaled over $463 million in 2015, compared to the county’s second largest payroll of $132 million for Nassau Community College. The crime rate in Nassau County has decreased from 17,679 total crimes in 2014 to 16,285 crimes in 2015, according to Newsday.

In order to make the same amount of money through property taxes, they would need to increase the tax rate by 8 percent. However, under New York State law, the property tax cap is set at 2 percent and any greater increase would require a supermajority override.

“In terms of the property tax increase, I just don’t think that’s good for Nassau County,” Gerry Oakes, a Nassau County resident, said. “Nassau County has some of the highest taxes in the country already and I think economically that would hurt property values and that just wouldn’t be good for homeowners.”

The official vote to finalize Nassau County’s budget will take place on Oct. 31.