Ticked off at a ticket

(WSVN) - Have you ever gotten a ticket? Many people just pay them, but have you ever read it closely and found out the government is also charging you to help pay for other programs they have, jacking up the price of your ticket? Is that legal? To get the answer, one man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

It was 25 years ago when Henry first saw his Cadillac.

Henry Hart: “I bought it from a gentleman up in Melbourne who was a shriner and used it in parades.”

Henry is not a shriner, but he did like to parade around South Florida in that ’72 Caddy.

Henry Hart: “It was a toy, basically. (Knocks on car) Solid as a rock!”

Driving is nice. Where he parked in Fort Lauderdale a few weeks ago is what brought him to a halt.

Henry Hart: “So I go to the meter and I have this ticket on my car and, OK I got a ticket and I will pay it.”

The parking meter Henry had put money in expired 20 minutes earlier. Henry says that’s his fault.

And then he started reading the ticket.

Henry Hart: “‘Oh, and by the way, we are going to have an additional $10 surcharge for this and an additional $3 surcharge for that.”

The $10 tax — or surcharge or fine or whatever you consider it — was to fund a school crossing guard program, and the $3 fine (if applicable) was to fund a firefighter education program, bumping the cost of his ticket to $32.

Henry Hart: “And it rubbed me the wrong way. The city takes advantage of a situation where all you did was miss the meter, and they put their hands into your pocket.”

Irritating Henry, the city already took money from his pocket with their other taxes to pay for schools and fire rescue.

Henry Hart: “And when does the absurdity stop? Who puts a ceiling on this and how high can it go? For what expenses do they want you to pay for?”

Then, as Henry thought about how many parking tickets are issued every day, he went from irritated to suspicious about the budgets for firefighter education and school crossing programs.

Henry Hart: “The amount of money that is being collected is probably astronomical. How much do they need? How much do they want? They could have met their quota already, so where do the extra funds go?”

Well, Howard, can a government agency impose as many surcharges as they want on a ticket?

Howard Finkelstein: “Yes. The law allows the city or county to charge whatever they want the base ticket to be and add as many surcharges as they feel they need to fund their local government. What they can’t do is charge what the law would consider excessive. How much is that? It all depends. In my opinion, an excessive parking ticket for overtime parking would be anything over $100.00.”

We contacted the City of Fort Lauderdale. We were told the commissioners voted to impose the surcharges.

We asked how much money was raised from the surcharge. We were told only about $1,000 for the fire rescue program. We were not told how much was raised for the crossing guard program.

Henry Hart: “I just want some awareness to come about, some transparency to come about.”

Henry has now made people aware of the surcharge, or tax, as he calls it, and is not happy about it.

Henry Hart: “Tomorrow, am I paying for new tires on the school buses? Tomorrow, am I paying for a new paint job on the buses? Am I paying for high school football men jock straps?”

What if the government agency raises more money than they need? They don’t have to return it. They keep it. And government officials don’t consider the fees a tax, which the person paying it will certainly disagree with that. If you aren’t happy about those fees or taxes, contact your elected officials who approved them.

Got troubles taxing your patience? Not fine with that? Park it with us. ‘Cause there are no hidden fees or surcharges or taxes. Just free help.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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