Law-abiding motorists look set to burn a $783,000 hole in Hamilton City Council's coffers after staff overestimated the city's take from traffic infringements.
And the predicted six-figure headache is likely to be compounded by a looming $200,000 shortfall in income from parking meters and the council's paid parking facilities.
The combined $983,000 shortcoming was revealed to council's finance committee last month with red-faced staff told to report back in February.
Mayor Julie Hardaker told the meeting the decrease in traffic infringements was "good in one sense" but it was important the council's revenue figures were accurate. Traffic infringements are given for vehicles with expired warrants of fitness or registrations.
Finance committee chairman Rob Pascoe said that as a new councillor he wasn't involved in setting the budget but acknowledged the looming deficit was "quite significant".
"It just seems like it was a long way off. I can't speak for those who put the budget together but certainly my financial background would suggest in that area, fines and so forth, you can't be all that certain whether it's going to be a good year or bad year because people's behaviour can be quite different."
City council transport manager Phil Consedine said the downward trend in traffic infringements was consistent with other cities and indicated a higher level of compliance by vehicle owners and fewer unregistered or unwarranted vehicles on the road.
There would be no significant change to the way parking wardens operated, he said. "The focus has been, and continues to be, on supporting the vitality of the city centre."
Acting Waikato road policing manager Inspector Marcus Lynam said there had been a decline in the number of infringements issued by police for expired warrants of fitness in the past 2 years.
The fact council's traffic infringement revenue was down was not caused by police being more active in that area.
"We're very consistent in what we do. I think vehicle owners are realising their responsibility of owning a car and ensuring they are warranted. From our figures, we've had a noticeable decrease from 2011/12 to 2012/13 which may reflect that higher compliance which is a good thing," Mr Lynam said.
Meanwhile, Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Sandy Turner said the shortfall in council's meter and car-park building income could be attributed to the offers of free parking in the city.
Ms Turner said city retailers' pay figures and traffic figures were up, with expectations being exceeded since the reopening of Centre Place.
"As far as we're concerned there hasn't been any dip in activity."
She said the closure of the Bryce St Countdown provided inner city office workers with free car-parking for several months, while Centre Place had also offered free parking to shoppers who spent over a certain amount.
"There are a lot more free parking options in the city than we've had before," she said.
Sam Boswell, manager of Snapshot Cameras on Victoria St, said there had been a noticeable retail upturn in the city centre but not all shoppers travelled by car. "Foot traffic is up and I think a lot of people are walking into town, which is good. A lot of people are also using bikes. It's a nice city and if they make the effort to walk, there's a lot for them."
AT A GLANCE
Income from traffic infringements, 2013-14
Budgeted income: $2.683m
Estimated year-end income: $1.9m-$2m*
Meter and car-park building income, 2013-14
Budgeted income: $3.45m
Estimated year end income: $3.25m*
*For the year ended June 30, 2014
- © Fairfax NZ News
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