Police Services eyes changes
Proposal suggests increase in costs of permits, tickets
In his five years as a student at Contra Costa College, not once during that time did he ever recall receiving a single parking ticket.
This semester, however, multimedia studies major Daniel Winter found himself buried with three.
"All of this sounds to me like (Police Services) is ratcheting up revenue," Winter said. "The county is broke, everybody is broke and they're looking for ways to get money."
Attempting to reach stability in a staggering economy, Police Services is awaiting response from the Governing Board to a district proposal raising parking permit and citation fees that will go into effect in the fall of 2010 if approved.
According to the parking proposal, scheduled for review by the district Governing Board today, there is a suggested increase in parking fees, raising term-length permits from $35 to $40 and daily permits from $2 to $3. Also, the price of parking violations will increase from $35 to $40 per ticket.
Alongside a $283,000 districtwide cut to Police Services, the state has changed its surcharge from $1.50 to $4.50 per citation, taking more money away from college revenue, Police Services Sgt. Jose Oliveira said.
District Police Services Chief Charles Gibson said the department had to reduce its staff and services because of the budget crisis.
"Now we'll have to reduce it even further because the state is reducing more," Gibson said.
Oliveira said, should the price of parking permits and fines not increase with the proposal, the program could potentially face an additional $30,000 service cut districtwide.
"We're just trying to recover from what the state is not giving us," Oliveira said.
Oliveira said the college has averaged about 2,000 citations per year in the last three years.
With the money generated by increasing the parking and permit fees, Police Services will be able to fund the salaries of more police aides and pay for more services, he said.
According to campus officials, risking fewer police aides on campus could pose a bigger threat to students than increased permit and ticket fees.
"We had to cut back on our budget for our safety aides, and often times, they are (the ones) walking the lots making sure we don't have nefarious characters," President McKinley Williams said.
"(The proposal) is one way to hire more parking and police aides to walk the campus and ensure our parking lots are safe," he said.
Additionally, the proposal also contains an initiative introduced by the district chancellor to make parking permits available online when one registers for classes, Oliveira said.
Gibson said, by making permits more available to students, the initiative plans to alleviate the long lines of students purchasing permits and textbooks commonly experienced during the beginning of the semester.
Some students disagreed with the proposal, saying that the increasing ticketing standards will be difficult to handle on top of other budget restraints.
When informed of the conditions of the measure, the members of the ASU voted against it, ASU President Kristina Bautista said.
"We voted no, because we were taking into consideration the other increases that are coming up, such as registration, units and books," she said.
Governing Board Student Trustee Christina Cannon agreed, adding on suggestions for alternative approaches.
"In the climate of so many budget cuts and fee increases, as a district we need to not follow along," Cannon said. "(We need to) stick to our values and ensure student success by not burdening them with other fees."
She proceeded to suggest priority parking, in which certain staff parking spaces be made available to students willing to pay a higher parking permit fee.
"We would need more facts and details, but (these are) just ideas," Cannon said.
In addition, a policy indicating that students choosing to carpool cannot pay more than $30 for parking permits will be further researched, she said.
"It's not a well-known situation, but it would help take off some of the budget," Cannon said. "We need to make sure we're critically thinking."
Should the proposal pass, students like Winter could experience greater financial strains if the parking regulations are not known to them.
For instance, student Eddie Hercules Morris III was issued a parking ticket at the beginning of the semester on the same day he decided to purchase a permit.
Oliveira confirmed, however, that the grace period is set for one full week and is extended to two if classes begin in mid-week.
With the amount of citations contested on grounds that they were wrongfully cited, Oliveira said that starting this semester, Police Services districtwide was given upgraded citation machines, allowing them to take photographic evidence of violations to submit to the County Office of Revenue Collection.
Winter believes Police Services' new approach this semester proves enhanced efforts to impede budget issues.
"(Police Services is) being aggressive and giving away tickets is a way to make money," he said.
Contact Asia Camagong at email@example.com
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