Letnick: What happens with money you pay for a traffic fine?

Annual grants are doled out to communities via B.C.’s traffic fine revenue sharing program.

Let’s say you’ve been caught speeding in a school zone in Lake Country.

A police officer pulls you over and hands you a fine for $196.

This is not how you wanted to start your day.

But have you ever wondered what happens to the money you and thousands of other British Columbians pay to resolve traffic tickets every year?

You might be surprised to learn a portion of your fine comes back to Lake Country twice a year in the form of a grant to fund policing initiatives and community safety projects.

Lake Country, Kelowna and several other B.C. cities each received the second instalment of their annual grants last week from the province’s traffic fine revenue sharing program.

Kelowna received just over $1.1 million for a three-year total of more than $3.6 million.

Lake Country received $59,950, bringing its three-year total to $210,094.

That’s not all. As a community with a population of less than 20,000, Lake Country also qualifies for a twice-yearly Small Community grant. Since March 2013, Lake Country has received $780,551 in Small Community grants, including $222,372 in last week’s instalment.

These two grant programs are a blessing for local governments because they pay for needed municipal projects without burdening local taxpayers.

Here’s how they work:

• Traffic Fine Revenue funding comes from ticket fines and court-imposed fines on violation tickets. The program returns 100 per cent of net traffic fine revenues to communities that are responsible for policing costs. Traffic Fine Revenue funds must be spent on enhancing community safety and policing.

• The Small Community grant program provides unconditional grants, meaning local governments can spend the funding according to their needs and priorities. The grants apply to communities with fewer than 20,000 people and are used for infrastructure, administration and delivering services.

There is a third grant program as well. Regional District grants are also applied twice a year and, like Small Community grants, are unconditional and can be spent however each regional district sees fit to assist with administration costs. The Central Okanagan Regional District received $88,781 from the program last week.

Since 2009, the Traffic Fine Revenue, Small Community and Regional District grant programs have provided more than $792 million in funding to communities throughout B.C., to help pay for local projects.

For example, they have helped the RCMP pay for a school liaison officer for George Elliott Secondary School in Lake Country, and assisted the Kelowna RCMP in hiring extra officers. The grants also help communities pay for initiatives such as municipal road projects, recreational infrastructure, restorative justice programs and more.

Unlike other grants that earmark funds for a specific purpose, these grants can be used at each community’s discretion on local projects that might otherwise go unfunded.

Our government understands there is no cookie-cutter formula for addressing municipal priorities. These programs allow local decision-makers to fund needed local projects that build safer, stronger communities – without draining local coffers.

It’s a winning formula I am proud to be part of.