Wiping up unpaid citations

In USF’s past two operational audits, state auditors targeted unpaid parking citations and permit accounts for the University. Each time, auditors suggested stricter enforcement of student holds on unpaid citations.

According to an August 2003 audit, the University reported $1.2 million in uncollected fees through Parking and Transportation Services. In December 2003, auditors reassessed their report and found $626,301 in citations that either had not been paid or did not have accompanying account information, such as the name or address of the person cited.

According to Director of Parking and Transportation Services Manuel Lopez, changes were made in the monitoring of outstanding citations after the audit.

“What we did was we started running these reports of outstanding debt on a daily basis, so it’s really minimized the amount of citations that are out there not placed on hold,” Lopez said.

The most recent audit reported outstanding fees of $1.3 million, but showed uncollected citations of $242,983 as of Feb. 28, 2005.

The Tampa campus balance was the largest at $188,369 in unpaid citations. St. Petersburg had $38,016, and Sarasota/Manatee reported $16,329.

“It’s enough money (that) we felt it warranted a finding in the report,” said Ted Sauerbeck, audit manager for colleges and universities at the Auditor General’s office in Tallahassee. “We had had a finding in a prior audit, and we always follow up on those findings.”

According to University Treasurer Eric Walden, these are satisfactory figures because the amount of outstanding accounts went down significantly.

“If you compare the Feb. 28, 2005 figure to the June 30, 2004 figure, it looks good,” Walden said. “It says the University did something to collect its money.”

Most uncollected revenue was in the form of parking citations, and according to Walden, there was $1,120,320 in written citations for the Tampa campus during the 2004-05 year. PTS collected $1,060,000 in citations, Walden said.

“In other words, they, collected all but $59,885 in the 04-05 year,” Walden said. “That doesn’t mean they will write that off, all that means is that they have $59,885 which they may collect a part of in the next fiscal year.”

Lopez said violators have 14 days to pay their citations, after which they are considered outstanding.

“When there is an outstanding citation,” he said, “(students) then get put on hold, which is something the University and the auditors require.”

According to Walden, after a citation is outstanding, a hold is placed on the account of the person it was issued to.

“If there is any information that says we know who this person is, whether it be a student or a non-student who received the citation, then that account remains on hold status,” Walden said. “If a student comes back to the University to request a transcript, request grades, request to come back and go to school here again, we will not take them until they pay those charges.”

But it isn’t easy for the University to enforce payment on all violators.

“The problem is, if they don’t have a good address to send the accounts receivable charge statement to, then how is (PTS) going to collect?” Walden said.

According to reports prepared by Walden, individuals who have out-of-state license plates and privacy plates account for most of the unpaid parking tickets.

In some cases, the University writes off parking tickets rather than pursuing the matter further.

According to the reports, total write offs for the Tampa campus totaled $90,760 for the period from 1998 through 2004.

The total amount of citations collected on the Tampa campus from 2004 to 2005 was $1,060,435.

“You’re looking at a write off of 1.2 percent. That is all that is being written off. (PTS) is collecting the rest of their money,” Walden said.