Schenectady County

Schenectady mayor: Pay up traffic tickets

If you haven’t paid your traffic tickets, now might be an excellent time to do so.

If you haven’t paid your traffic tickets, now might be an excellent time to do so.

Mayor Gary McCarthy plans to dramatically increase enforcement of the tickets. He told the City Council that he plans to do more than withhold registrations or offer an amnesty program. He wants “aggressive” efforts — which could include booting cars.

The city is owed $2.3 million in traffic tickets, with the vast majority unpaid for more than five years.

“I told the police, it’s grossly inept that we’re not doing the follow-up,” he said.

He’s hoping to collect 10 percent of the fines next year, about $230,000.

But, he added, “The assumptions there are overly conservative.”

Councilwoman Marion Porterfield asked McCarthy to offer an amnesty program, giving residents a chance to avoid higher fines if they pay up immediately.

But McCarthy said the city’s last amnesty program was a bust.

“At this point I’m more skeptical of that,” he said.

Withholding registrations also doesn’t work, he added, because many scofflaws will register their car in their spouse’s or child’s name.

“We will have a presentation on some of the collection techniques we’re looking to implement,” he said.

Councilman Carl Erikson also questioned the mayor on his proposal to amortize the 2013 state pension payment. McCarthy suggested paying that over the course of years, along with interest.

Erikson didn’t seem happy. He questioned the mayor on the details, wanting to know whether the city would ask permission to pay over 10 years — the maximum allowed by the state.

McCarthy said he expected the city could pay off the bill in three to four years. He doesn’t yet know what the interest rate would be, but said the state offered a 3 percent interest rate to municipalities that wanted to amortize their 2012 payments.

The city last amortized its payment in 2004, during a desperate financial situation.

McCarthy also explained at length a plan that will cut costs in health insurance.

Even with the cuts, health insurance costs are still projected to go up $682,000.

But it could be $500,000 worse, McCarthy said.

He proposed hiring the CSEA Strategic Benefit Trust to manage the city’s insurance claims, which would cost half as much as having MVP manage the claims. MVP is the city’s insurance carrier.

With the trust, more employees could also buy their prescriptions from CanRx, a Canadian online drug pharmacy. Drugs there are about 40 percent cheaper than at American pharmacies, trust manager Laura Balogh said.

He also proposed self-insuring the MVP plan, so that the city would not have to pay tax on it. The tax is about 2 percent of the total insurance premium.

The city already self-insures another plan, but this would triple the number of employees in self-insurance. To reduce liability, the city already pays for stop-loss insurance, which covers all claims over $100,000.

Balogh said the city has a competitive bid for that insurance that is far cheaper than the current price.

In total, the city would go from paying $245 to $143 per employee for administrative and stop-loss costs.

Council members approved the plan in committee. The associated cost changes are already included in the proposed 2013 budget.

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