Last week, we told you the City of Reno had sent out 10,000 letters to local residents, asking people to pay their outstanding parking tickets. It was all part of the city's plan to help build up their budget during a struggling economy. Now one week later, some Nevada residents say the plan has backfired.
In the past few days, many people have contacted us saying they received one of the delinquent parking ticket letters, although unrightfully. One man out of Las Vegas says he got a letter and he's never even been to Reno.
Another local man we spoke with admitted to getting a ticket for letting a meter run out on the corner of Sierra and Liberty Streets downtown. Bill Ferguson got a parking ticket on March 27th, then wrote the city a check for $10 on April 7th. Last week, he got a letter from the city, saying pay up, or else.
"They were not specific as to how many tickets, where I got them, when I got them, or any of that detailed information. Plus, the letter is very threatening, telling me they're going to 'boot your car, tow your car,' this whole list of things. All of this, for a ten dollar parking ticket?" said Ferguson.
Ferguson says he called the city clerk's office to find out what had gone wrong. They told him his account had a zero balance and that the letter had been a mistake.
"If I had a zero balance, how many other people who were sent letters have zero balances as well?"
Ferguson says the mistake is disappointing. In a time of financial hardship, he feels the City should have been more careful about who they sent letters to. He says says it's not only a waste of money, but a waste of paper, resources and time.
"What are the audits and controls the city is using? How much money did you waste in putting all of these letters out? To do what? Get more revenue?"
City representatives say the total amount of money they projected to take in from the unpaid tickets was over $500,000 dollars. In order to send all of those letters out bulk mail, it cost the city $3,500 dollars...and so far, they've only taken in about $9,000 in unpaid ticket money...minus the cost of the mailings.
The city clerk estimates that about seven percent of the ten-thousand letters, roughly 700 of the letters they sent out, were indeed errors.
City representatives say the letters were mailed out for tickets that were issued between April 2006 and April 2008. If someone paid their parking ticket during the month of April or May of this year, their payment may not have made it into the database.
The city clerk's office has been receiving rougly 200 phone calls a day from residents either wanting to pay their debts, or wanting clear up a mistake in the system. I you received a letter and need help clearing it up, go to our home page and click on "hot topics." There's a link there to help you out.