By San Grewal, Toronto Star Urban Affairs Reporter
Caught speeding in Mississauga? Get ready to pay the price in Toronto.
Even the most artful dodger will find it tough to avoid paying traffic tickets with a new pilot project in place that allows municipalities to collect unpaid Provincial Offences Act tickets through property tax bills in other cities.
Mississauga will soon join Toronto, Ottawa and three smaller municipalities in the reciprocal 18-month project aimed at recouping some of their combined $1 billion in outstanding POA fines, most of which are for offences such as speeding, not wearing seatbelts, careless driving and not having insurance.
If successful, the project could go provincewide. That would help cities such as Mississauga, with $37.9 million in outstanding POA tickets, recover a much higher percentage of unpaid fines. Some $20 million of that total figure relates to offences committed in Mississauga by people who live outside the city.
There are some hitches. Renters, who don’t get property tax bills, won’t be touched. Nor will people whose property is owned jointly.
“We want the same authority that the 407 (ETR) has. You don’t pay your 407 bill, no matter where you live and where you travel you’re refused a new licence (plate),” Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion said shortly after Wednesday’s council meeting, where the pilot project received unanimous approval.
The extra revenue will be welcome in Mississauga as it faces a $1.5 billion infrastructure deficit.
“$20 million, that’s a lot of money left behind,” Mississauga Councillor Bonnie Crombie.Crombie said. “It’s money that can and should be collected. There’s a responsibility for people to pay their fines. If we put all fines owing on the property tax bill (regardless of where one lives) it allows us to collect that way, if we have to.”
Since 2009, a municipality has been allowed to collect POA fines issued within its borders on the property tax bill, but only if the offender lives in the city and owns property registered under the exact name on the driver’s licence. Fines can’t be applied to properties owned by more than one person.
Toronto managed to collect 85 per cent of the fines added to eligible property tax bills for 2010, and 75 per cent in 2011. Its council approved participation in the multi-city project at the end of April.
The other municipalities involved are Belleville, the City of Kawartha Lakes and County of Hastings.
Ken Hughes, who works for the City of Ottawa and is president of the organization that launched the pilot program, says the rules around collecting unpaid fines have been pretty restrictive.
“My organization (Ontario Municipal Tax and Revenue Association) is made up of members who collect property taxes and Provincial Offences Act fines. So we thought, why not combine the two across our membership?”
Cities provide each other with a list of offenders and remit any property tax levies for fines to the municipalities where the offence took place.
“The pilot project has already been successful before Toronto and now Mississauga. Hopefully it will force more people to just do the right thing and pay their fine.”
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