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Tickets from cameras, radar van brighten city's revenue outlook

By: DANIEL CHACÓN
June 27, 2011
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A financial forecast for the city of Colorado Springs shows that revenues should come in slightly higher than budgeted, thanks in part to red light cameras and photo radar.

The city expects to collect $224.48 million from all revenue sources in 2011, or $830,000 more than budgeted, according to the mayor’s mid-year financial report.

Sales and use tax, which accounts for 53 percent of the city’s general fund revenue, is expected to generate $120.5 million, or $3.02 million more than budgeted.

Revenue from fines, which includes collections from red-light camera violations and a photo radar enforcement program aimed at speeders, is projected to be 14 percent higher than budgeted. The city expected to collect $5.56 million but now projects $6.36 million in revenue from all types of fines, an $800,000 increase.

Other sources of revenue are tracking close to or just below budget. Revenue from licenses and permits is significantly under budget, but the city expects to make up the difference with proposed medical marijuana licensing fees, which the City Council will consider today.

Lisa Bigelow, the city’s budget manager, said the city is collecting between $60,000 and $65,000 a month from red-light cameras and photo radar. The city had budgeted $450,000 in revenue from red-light cameras and photo radar but is now projecting $780,000. Other types of fines, primarily traffic violations, are coming in higher, too, she said.

In previous years, “our revenue (from fines) wasn’t coming in close to what we had budgeted, so we lowered our budget number significantly. Now they’re tracking higher,” she said.

“It’s not all attributed to just the photo radar and photo red,” she added.

Mayor Steve Bach said red light cameras should be used only for improving public safety, not to raise revenue.

“I think they’re intrusive,” he said. “It’s just one more thing that intrudes in our lives, so it has to be on a public safety improvement basis.”

When he was on the campaign trail, he said he talked to police Chief Richard Myers, who told Bach the Police Department planned to analyze whether they reduced crashes.

“If the empirical data shows us there’s a marked decrease in personal injury and property damage, then maybe that’s a program that could make some sense,” he said. “The jury is still out.”

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