Councillor Michelle Steck has warned Bunbury residents with unpaid fines that they could face jail time if they continue to ignore their infringements.
In a meeting on Tuesday night, the City of Bunbury officially voted to refer an amount of $157,200.98 of unpaid fines issued within the City of Bunbury Municipality to the state Fines Enforcement Registry (FER) and write them off from City of Bunbury accounts.
But Cr Steck warns that this does not mean residents are off the hook and urged council to notify citizens with unpaid fines incurred during that time that their fines will be referred to and enforced by FER.
“Will people understand that their small unpaid parking or dog fine may end up with them being subject to their drivers licence being suspended?” she asked.
“Will they understand they may end up with a longer term of suspension and greater fine of up to $800?
Cr Steck said her questions were not answered by council last night so she was made to do some investigating of her own.
“I am pleading with persons with unpaid fines issued by the City within the years of 2014/2015 to contact council and arrange a time to pay-off the small fines,” she said.
“Some people don’t understand that once their fine is sent to FER, a parking fine of $35 will automatically attract a $91.70 charge. If that is still unpaid the fine will attract a further $38.40, with a suspended drivers licence, along with a summons to appear before the courts.
“Also if a person is found by police driving whilst they are under suspension due to an unpaid fine, a small parking fine of $35 will most likely end up with a 9 month suspension of driving, along with court fees and a fine of up to or over $800 issued by a magistrate. If those fines are still not paid a person may end up serving prison time.”
Cr Steck said there could be some very serious consequences for not paying something as simple as a parking fine.
“I am urging the community to urgently contact the council today if they have unpaid fines,” she said.
“I don’t care if they pay $10 per week, but please don’t ignore your parking fines or any fine from council.”
Last week, Mayor Gary Brennan said people shouldn’t think for a minute that the debt is forgiven.
“It remains always until it’s paid, the debt remains even if you move away, it follows you everywhere,” Mayor Brennan warned.
“It stays on the Fines Enforcement Registry and that’s national. So at some point, you’ve got to come and pay it.”
Mayor Brennan said the amounts were being removed from the financial statements simply to reflect the collectability of infringements.
“The writing off is an accounting, a book entry function. So where you run an organisation, you’ve got people that owe you money and that stays on the books until it gets paid,” Mayor Brennan said.
“With us in local government, if those debts remain unpaid for a period of time, you don’t keep on putting them there.
“You write them off, so you take them off your accounts but the debt still remains so when those people do come and pay them, it’s treated as income at that time.”