In 2005, when Northwood City Council reviewed a plan by the police department to install Redflex automated photo speed and red light enforcement cameras at two intersections, the city’s share of the revenue from citations issued to motorists were only to be used for traffic safety improvements.
The continuous right turn lane on Wales Road and the flashing lights at Lark School are examples of such improvements. The revenue is also used as compensation for a police officer who had been laid off.
Now, with the city struggling with budget cuts and reduced income tax collections, council is considering redirecting the funds into the general budget, which is down by 7.3 percent this year.
Earlier this year, council voted 4-3 in support of a new, three year contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., of Arizona, which operates the automated photo speed and red light enforcement cameras at the intersections of Woodville and Lemoyne roads and Wales and Oregon roads.
The city is receiving a greater share of the revenue received from traffic citations issued as a result of the cameras.
The city last year discontinued the operation of its speed van, a mobile vehicle that cited motorists for speeding.
Members of council at a June 3 meeting were unsure whether the revenue from Redflex would be appropriate.
“In the past, one of the things that has saved the city is the fact that we have never had to depend on that Redflex,” said Councilman Dave Gallaher. Since the city did not have to rely on the revenue, the city was able to negotiate a better contract with Reflex, he said.
“One of the things that put us in a position where we could negotiate a little bit better is that we did not get into the habit – we use it for safety oriented items,” said Gallaher. “Just recently, we tried to save a police officer’s job with it. I would not be in favor of throwing the Redflex money into the general fund. It is not a revenue stream.”
“I’m not in favor of it, either,” said Councilman Dean Edwards.
“It’s really not something that you can depend on,” said Gallaher.
“And it’s not $400,000,” said Councilwoman Connie Hughes, of the amount the city needs to balance the 2010 budget.
“No, but it might make a difference,” said Mayor Mark Stoner, in the rate of increase city council approves for the proposed 1.75 percent income tax hike, a $10 trash fee, and reduction in the relief and credit provisions for residents who work outside the city.
“It’s a lot easier to have that money in reserve for something like a police officer, a tornado siren, or something that comes up at the last minute that isn’t in the budget than it is to try and use that money as part of our budget, then find out that we’re running short on it,” said Gallaher. “That’s my only concern. It’s not so much protecting the Redflex money as much as it’s not something that we can count on. It’s something that we have, and something we can use. But it’s not what I think is a revenue stream.”
“We’re kind of doing the opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Finance Director Toby Schroyer. “We eliminated 10 percent going into a capital fund. But now we’re saying we don’t want to take the Redflex out of the capital fund. We’re doing two different strategies there. Why is the Redflex money any different than the income tax money that was going into the capital fund that we eliminated?” asked Schroyer.
“I didn’t vote for that, Toby,” said Gallaher. “You’re going to have to talk to somebody else. I’m sorry.”
“I see Toby’s point,” said Stoner. “It’s nice to have a little bankroll hidden away, a little stash that you don’t have to rely on, but then how do we go to the residents and say, `We need this money to operate and to save these jobs, but we do have a stash in our back pocket?’”
Schroyer said that the city received between $30,000-$40,000 in its Redflex account last year, That amount is projected to jump to $200,000 per year as a result of the new contract the city negotiated with Redflex earlier this year.
“It’s a safety thing, it’s not to generate money,” said Edwards. ““That’s the big thing I see with it. It’s for safety. You can’t look at it to generate income.”