The report from theFlorida Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability found there were fewer fatalities but more crashes at electronically monitored intersections, and that fines issued due to the technology cost motorists nearly $119 million last year. The study cast doubt on cameras as safety-inducing devices.
Besides no longer allowing municipalities and counties to install red light cameras after July 1, the proposal would cut fins to $83 and allow local governments to impose only a $25 surcharge on tickets to fund the existing systems, which would be allowed to continue. That would lower Palm Coast’s and its private provider’s take by two thirds, likely rendering the system too expensive to run.
In September, the 43 red-light cameras in Palm Coast generated $255,740 in fines, what would work out to an annual total of $3 million. The state and ATS, the private company running the system, took more than seven times the revenue share left Palm Coast, which means that the overwhelming majority of the money is leaving the local economy.
GOP Sen. Jeff Brandes blames red-light cameras “as backdoor tax increases,” but the Palm Coast City Council Tuesday reasserted its commitment to its 43 cameras even as they siphon out more than $3 million a year from the local economy–in taxes to state government, and in revenue to ATS, the Arizona-based company that runs the system.
The $1.7 million Palm Cast reaped in red-light camera fines between 2008 and 2010 may be at stake if the Florida Supreme Court rules such systems illegal after it hears the much-anticipated case on Oct. 8, with ramifications for numerous cities and counties across the state.
In a surprising and radical shift, Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon used harsh words to describe the city’s red-light camera program, saying that while the system makes intersections safer, its harsh punishments are out of proportion with the crime, and Palm Coast’s drivers–and the city’s image–are suffering as a result. But he is less clear on how to improve the system, which he does not want dismantled.
The Palm Coast City Council will forego adopting steeper fines, of up to $408, for red-light camera tickets, but it has yet to find a solution to a problem particular to the city: the large number of people who pay their tickets but whose payments appear never to register with ATS, the company managing–and profiting from–the system, causing drivers headaches and additional costs.
New legislation gives local governments like Palm Coast authority to raise red-light camera ticket fines to $408 if a drivers contests the ticket and loses. Netts’s opposition signals a slight but discernible shift in the mayor’s thinking about red-light cameras.
A new law awaiting Gov. Scott’s signature returns hearings to the control of local governments that have red-light cameras, such as Palm Coast, and allows them to impose an additional fee of $250 on top of $158 tickets, when contested, among other changes.
If they become law, the restrictions would seriously crimp the use of red-light cameras as revenue generators, as is the case in Palm Coast, where up to 52 such cameras are in place–at least for the companies operating the cameras, since Palm Coast is guaranteed revenue regardless of the number of tickets issued.