Brooksville Council Decides not to Renew Red Light Photo Enforcement Contract

by Julie Maglio

Brooksville City Council voted Monday not to renew the contract with Sensys which is set to expire 3 years after the installation of the most recent traffic infraction device.

The photo enforcement program has left the city vulnerable on multiple levels. During the January City Council meeting, it was pointed out that the agreement the city has with Sensys may be in violation of the law in terms of allowing the company to perform the initial review of red light violations. According to the 4th District Court of Appeals Eric Heram decision page 8, “The City also lacks the lawful authority to outsource to a third-party vendor the ability to make the initial review of the computer images of purported violations…”

The other area of particular concern has been “unfair” citations for rights on red. The legal interpretation of a “careful and prudent” speed for right on red is unclear. Currently the City of Brooksville sets that speed at 5 mph. At the next meeting, councilmen will look into raising that speed to 11 mph until the contract with Sensys expires.

The staff report provided to councilmen answered questions dealing with the financial implications of not renewing the photo enforcement program.

A majority of the monies raised through the photo enforcement fund gets transferred into a fund for road, drainage and sidewalk safety improvements. A different revenue source will have to be found for road/sidewalk projects identified to be funded through this program after fiscal year 2015. The staff report states ”Over the last 2 fiscal years, the City has transferred a little over $1.4 million to Fund 308 for road/safety improvement projects from the Photo Enforcement Program Fund (Fund 128).”

The rest of the photo enforcement fund is used to pay the cost of the program itself along with $100,000 transferred to the general fund each year.

The following is a table in the staff report for fy 2015 projected revenues and expenditures relating to the red light violations.

Beneath the table, the report explains that “...the projected “realized” revenues for road/sidewalks/drainage safety improvements for the current fiscal year equates to about 1.04 mils that could otherwise be billed to the businesses and residents of Brooksville.”

For something that was sold as a safety measure, they are relying on it for revenue.

Citizens could see their millage rate go up after the end of the photo enforcement program.

The report continues, explaining that since the $100,000 transferred annually into the general fund will not be available after the conclusion of the program, $95,000 of expenditures would need to be cut or else raised through revenues. The report states,“$95,000 at current FY 2015 value of a mil equates to a tax increase of approximately 0.25 of a mil.”

So if cuts are not made, or funds shifted to account for revenue loss from the road/safety fund and general fund, citizens of Brooksville could see a 1.29 mil increase.

Additionally, the City has 2 full time and 1 part time red light camera officer positions. These officers perform other duties as well. Their positions will be eliminated when the contract with Sensys expires. The city will have to provide unemployment benefits “most likely with General Fund monies.” However with the removal of the red light cameras, the report states that it will be the city’s responsibility to place traffic enforcement units at intersections deemed needed by law enforcement. The report does not specify if other officers will need to be hired to fulfill this need.

Citizens view the red light cameras as a nuisance and hindrance to the growth of their community. It has been said that people avoid driving in Brooksville just because of the cameras.

Although councilmen voted not to renew the Sensys contract, it is still possible to reinstate the program. It would only take a simple vote of the city council to overturn this or establish a new contract with Sensys. After being denied the opportunity to vote on banning red light cameras in the November 2014 election, voters elected council members in opposition to them. If Brooksvillians are adamantly against the use of these cameras, it may be prudent to try to get this issue on the ballot again perhaps addressing the weaknesses of the last potential referendum.

Related Article:
Green Light for Brooksville's Red Light Cameras

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