By Anna Lothson
If you've noticed less of those dreaded bright orange parking ticket envelopes on windshields around Oak Park this year, you've caught onto a "concerning trend" the village is facing when it comes to parking fine enforcement.
A number of reasons could be attributed to the reduction in parking tickets issued since 2007, but one factor could be having less parking enforcement officers on the street, said Craig Lesner, the Oak Park's chief financial officer, at the village board's finance committee meeting Thursday, April 26.
Multiple vacancies remain in the police department's public enforcement officer positions, which leave the entire downtown area enforced by one officer.
Parking fines in the village are 46 percent below first-quarter budget estimates — or by about $500,000 — which adversely affects the general fund revenue, Lesner said.
In the first quarter of 2010, the village projected collecting a little more than $1.1 million from parking fines, and brought in around $700,000.
In 2011, Oak Park budgeted taking in $900,000 in parking fines in the first quarter and collected about $500,000. In 2012, the village again projected slightly over $800,000 in first-quarter fine collections, but took in only about $400,000.
Although Lesner said the purpose of parking tickets isn't to generate revenue, the decrease may mean the department may need to re-evaluate its budget projections in the future if staffing levels remain the same. Evaluating if projected revenues are unrealistic and determining how to fill the vacant parking enforcement officer positions will be topics of discussion for staff, he said.
Lesner said other staff members plan to meet internally to consider options to deal with the decreasing revenue figures. Parking-related fines are impacted by number of factors, including the number of tickets issued, village parking policies, number of parking enforcement officers, degree of enforcement by parking enforcement officers, spoilage (fines waived) and reductions in vehicles and collection rates.
According to the David Powers, the village's communication director, the officers are selected the same way other municipal employees are hired. Initially, candidates are screened through human resources before involving the police department for a selection.
Candidates also must pass a physical, a psychological test similar to that given prospective police officers, Powers said. The current salary range is $33,343.90 - $45,985.75, with most earning below $35,000.
Powers, who posts openings on the website, said Tuesday that Oak Park is not accepting applications for parking enforcement officers.