New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced today the start of a three-month late fee forgiveness program aimed at encouraging residents who owe the city money to settle their debts at a reduced amount now through Sept. 3.
The program applies to parking and camera tickets, sales and hotel and motel taxes, code enforcement violations and library fines.
Those who pay parking fines and camera tickets during the allotted time won’t have to pay any late fees. In addition, individuals who owe the city money won’t get their vehicles booted while parking around the city during the amnesty period.
Those with library fines up to $100 can return their overdue items with all late fees waived — but only once.
Code enforcement violations upon correction may be reduced by $100 per violation. Business owners also stand to benefit from the program with reduced interest on outstanding sales, hotel/motel, parking and other select taxes and permits — without penalty.
“Whatever circumstances they’ve found themselves in and they owe the city, this is an opportunity to hit reset,” she said.
Cantrell said the program would save both residents money on fines and the city money on hiring a collection agency to track down unpaid tickets, fees and fines.
The bill does not contain exceptions for rape and incest. Both exceptions were heavily discussed on the House floor but the majority of lawmakers voted against them.
According to the city’s website, the Cantrell administration anticipates the “recovery of millions of dollars of unpaid back taxes and fees” based on studies in other cities.
“What we’ve seen it does bring in some much needed cash flow while at the same time just eliminating or alleviating that burden that’s carried by your residents and by your business owners,” Cantrell said.
Discussion of an amnesty program had been floated for months amid reports that the city rolled back the threshold for camera-issued speeding tickets in school zones without notifying the public.
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Cantrell said originally the program was only going to involve waiving late fees for parking tickets, but that her administration pushed for a more “comprehensive” approach “to meet our residents truly where they are.”
Money owed can be paid online, by phone or in person, depending on the type of fee or fine.
No penalties or interest already paid to the city will be refunded.
“We’re not counting anyone or anybody out as it relates to what’s rightfully owed or due to the city,” Cantrell said. “We’re not going after more than our share we just want to be treated fairly and [collect] those dollars that are indeed owed to the city of New Orleans.”