City leaders knew they’d hear from commuters sooner or later about the reduced speed limit on Seattle Hill Road.
Motorists would perceive the measure as a money-making scheme, rather than an effort to reduce noise and improve safety for nearby residents.
“Most people just assume that cities use traffic tickets to pad their budgets,” Mill Creek Police Chief Bob Crannell said. “That’s not really how it works. In many cases, cities end up spending more on traffic enforcement than they bring in.”
Mill Creek officers handed out 1,252 traffic tickets between Jan. 1 and July 31, according to police records. Of those, only 182 were paid directly to the city’s Traffic Violations Bureau, or TVB.
Mill Creek’s TVB holds tickets for 30 days should violators choose not to contest or mitigate their infractions.
Otherwise, tickets are transferred to Snohomish County District Court and the city pays a filing fee of $34.68 per ticket.
Since Jan. 1, the city has paid the county more than $37,000 in court fees compared to the $15,000 generated from uncontested tickets.
“Once they go to court, the fines are reduced and often times dismissed entirely,” Crannell said. “The city is still required to pay those filing fees and it doesn’t get that money back.”
Based on the state’s formula for distributing revenue from traffic infractions, local jurisdictions receive 35 percent or $44 minus the filing fee for a $124 ticket; the state’s Public Safety and Education account receives 36 percent or $44; the Judicial Information Systems account receives 13 percent or $17; the Auto Theft account receives 8 percent or $10; the Traumatic Brain Injury account receives 1 percent or $2; and the Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Care account receives 4 percent or $5.
“This idea that police are out there nabbing speeders to pad their general funds doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Crannell said. “Most years you just about break even.”