Salt Lake looks to unpaid tickets, fines to help budget

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City has a budget shortfall of about $19 million, and the city council has an idea to make up about one-third of that: collect it from people who owe the city money.

"We have over $6 million that is owed the citizens of Salt Lake City," says Salt Lake City councilman J.T. Martin.

$6.3 million to be exact; all from unpaid parking tickets, court fees, fines and business licenses.

"That's a great deal of money that would save a lot of jobs, help save programs, like youth programs, all kinds of things we desperately need and want to have in our city," Martin says.

Several years ago, when the economy was better and the city had more money, those unpaid fees weren't a high priority. Now, with a $19 million budget gap, that tune has changed.

"We are now trying to find money wherever we can," Martin says.

The city council believes the city has not as been vigilant as it could be in collecting unpaid fees.

"We haven't forgot about it; there is a paper trail and record there," Martin says. "We know who it is and what they owe."

Councilman Carlton Christensen says, "I'm not going to go out and hire my cousin Vinnie to go out and shake somebody down. On the other hand, there are some very legitimate, yet maybe stern and forceful ways to collect those fees."

Now the city is discussing using collection agencies, and council members are going to make sure they don't fall this behind again.

"We want to bring a better focus: Why are we not collecting money as we should?" Martin says. "We're going to go out, find how others do it and apply those principles here."

The city has also begun to garnish funds from state tax refunds.


Story compiled with information from Amanda Butterfield and Randall Jeppesen.

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