Parking Enforcement, Normally Profitable, Is Costing East Lansing

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Raymond Holt for ELi

Parking meters located in downtown East Lansing.

The City of East Lansing is currently in the red when it comes to costs versus revenue related to parking tickets, running a deficit of nearly $20,000. 

Between Jan. 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2020, the City collected $350,723.25 in fees related to parking tickets while shelling out $369,718.88 to keep Parking and Code Enforcement (PACE) functioning.

This is in sharp contrast to 2019 when the City made more than $475,000 in profits from parking tickets throughout the calendar year. At the same point in 2019 (Aug. 31), the City was already $320,000 in the black.

Last calendar year, the City raked in almost $1,088,000 in parking ticket revenue. According to the City’s Finance Department this amount “does include court costs added to parking fines. Also, it could include revenue from tickets issued in a previous calendar year.” The City spent nearly $611,000 on PACE in 2019.

In September 2019, ELi reported the large profits the City received from parking enforcement for Fiscal Year 2019, which ran from July 2018 through June 2019, after finding the information on the City’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Log. MSU student Alaina Agnello filed the FOIA request upon which ELi based its article for her journalism class after feeling frustrated with the parking situation in East Lansing.

At that time, ELi reported that approximately $100,000 of the money the City collected was rerouted elsewhere, often to the county or state, by statute. Even still, the City had over $1 million left.

This year, a staff writer for The Center Square requested the more recent information that ELi found through the City’s FOIA log.

The request revealed that police stops have fallen dramatically in 2020. In calendar year 2019, ELPD made 17,350 traffic stops and issued citations to nearly 6,700 of those stopped — meaning that about 40 percent of those stopped received a citation.

This year so far, ELPD has issued a lower percentage of citations (roughly 35 percent of those stopped have gotten a citation) and the number of stops has fallen dramatically – with roughly 3,660 stopped and 1,330 given citations.

The number of stops and citations began to rapidly decrease following the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

At its April 15 meeting, the East Lansing Public Library Board of Trustees stated that Interim ELPD Chief Steve Gonzalez had informed them that ELPD had only made four traffic stops that resulted in fines in the preceding 4 weeks, presumably due to the pandemic.

The parking revenue is of interest to the library since state law allocates some funding for local public libraries from revenue collected by locales in fines and citations.

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