Not all cities equal on ‘speed traps’

  • By Scott North
  • Monday, April 4, 2011 11:25am
  • Local News

Last week ended with some heat over “speed traps” within Everett city limits. In particular, people were concerned that some are getting pulled over by Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies and troopers from the Washington State Patrol.

I asked Rikki King to speak with Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz about what has been happening.

Judging from reader comments some didn’t find him convincing when he suggested it was all routine. One poster suggested Goetz was lying when he said of Everett cops: “We don’t issue infractions for ticket revenue. It’s not a concern of ours.”

I’ll risk getting flamed for this, but numbers suggest Goetz is being truthful.Everett’s 2011 general fund budget is $ 108.9 million. The city anticipates collecting about $1.5 million from fines and forfeitures this year — most of that from infractions handled in municipal court, where traffic tickets are king.

No question, that’s a lot of money. It also is a fraction of Everett’s total revenue, less than 1.4 percent.

Consider that Everett expects to spend $36.5 million on police this year. That means ticket revenue represents about four cents of every dollar spent at the cop shop.

We’ll do a closer examination later, but a quick look at some other local government budgets suggests Everett is in line with most of its neighbors — except Lynnwood.

Marysville expects about $512,000 from fines and forfeitures, about 1.4 percent of its $34.9 million general fund. Edmonds expects to collect about $667,000, enough to cover about 2 percent of the $32.2 million it expects to spend. Arlington has budgeted for $336,000 in revenue from fines and forfeitures, or 2.4 percent of the $13.8 million budget.

Snohomish County’s $204 million general fund is based on 3 percent of revenue coming from fines and forfeitures from district court cases. That works out to about $6.5 million.

Contrast that with the city of Lynnwood, where fines and forfeitures in recent years have accounted for up to 11 percent of city revenues. This year, that is expected to reach nearly $5.5 million.

The reason? Traffic control cameras.

Lynnwood has them set up to catch people who run red lights and to snare speeders in school zones.

“Catch” and “snare.” Yes, I picked those verbs with care.

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