Next comes the stick: Syracuse to follow parking ticket amnesty with collections effort

Syracuse will follow its parking ticket amnesy with a collections effort.

Syracuse, N.Y. – Until Sept. 25, Syracuse motorists can take advantage of an amnesty program to pay off old parking tickets and get the late fees waived. After that, no more Mr. Nice Guy. Collections agents will go after the remaining scofflaws.

For the first time in years, the city is hiring a collection agency to go after people who have unpaid parking tickets, some of which are more than 20 years old.

Under a pilot program narrowly approved today by the Common Council, private collection agency Capital Collection Management will keep between 35% and 65% of the money it can collect from motorists, depending on the age of the tickets involved.

The trial will last 120 days, after which city officials will decide whether it’s worth continuing the effort long term, said Frank Caliva, chief administrative officer. If so, the city will issue a competitive request for proposals to select a collections agency, he said.

“The city has not attempted this in a long time,” Caliva said. “I think it’s a pretty open question as to whether those (tickets) are collectible.”

Four of the nine councilors voted against the agreement. Several questioned hiring a collections firm even for a short term without issuing an RFP.

“I really don’t see why we couldn’t have done a request for proposals,” Councilor Pat Hogan said.

Caliva said city hall officials wanted to get a collections program in place soon after the three-week amnesty period ends. The pilot program with CCM is intended to provide information about the potential to collect the old fines. That information will provide the basis for an RFP and will be available to other bidders, he said.

Under the 120-day agreement approved today, CCM will keep a variable percentage of what it collects based on the age of the ticket:

— 30 to 180 days: 35%

— 181 to 364 days: 45%

— 1 year to 2 years: 55%

— More than 2 years old: 65%