Today’s Asbury Park Press has a story about what may prove to be the first test of the Democratic majority’s professed willingness to “work with” Councilman John Curley: parking fines.

Curley, one of two Republicans on the six-member council, wants them slashed from $38 per violation to $25. The council Dems are saying, whoa, not so fast.

From the story, by Press reporter Larry Higgs:

“Last year, the council discussed reducing the fines. Maybe this is the time to do it,” Curley said.

Curley’s rationale is that the parking utility has a surplus, which in past years has been used to bail out the water utility, and the parking director has resigned, saving a $60,000 salary.

The Press finds downtown shoppers who’ve been stung by the big tickets who, naturally, like Curley’s idea. The Dems, though, led in this instance by council newcomer and finance committee chairman Michael DuPont, say they need to look closely at the numbers before acting.

“I share Mr. Curley’s feelings. The tickets are too high, but $25 is a substantial reduction,” said DuPont, who is chairman of the finance committee. “We have to look at the numbers on the loss of revenue versus the parking coordinator’s salary.”

Mayor Pasquale “Pat” Menna said the matter will be referred to the finance committee to determine how much revenue would be lost if the overtime fine is reduced. He said he hopes the council could discuss it again at a February meeting.

In 2005, the borough earned $252,097 from all types of parking fines, which went into the general treasury. Total parking utility revenue was $853,167 in 2005, from meters, permits and smart card sales, up from $732,779 in 2004.

Borough officials said they’ve increased the parking time limit from two to four hours and added a 15-minute grace period on meters, from the time it runs out to the time it indicates a violation.

According to Higgs, Red Bank’s fine is among the top three most expensive in the Shore area.

Letting the meter run out in Point Pleasant Beach will cost $48, when meters are in use from April to October. An overtime parking fine is $45 in Belmar and $35 in Seaside Heights and Seaside Park.

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