Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014
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Year in Review: Brooksville has most red light revenue per capita

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BROOKSVILLE - Out of 77 jurisdictions in Florida with red-light cameras, Brooksville ranked 15th in state revenue generated from the devices during the past fiscal year. Per capita, Brooksville was at the top of the list in terms of red-light revenue.

For every $158 red-light camera citation issued in Brooksville, the state collects $83, and the city evenly splits the remaining $75 with the camera manufacturer.

Florida Department of Revenue data for fiscal 2013 shows the state collected $1,233,546 between July 2012 and June 2013 from Brooksville's red-light cameras.

The city and the camera manufacturer each collected $557,325.

The 14,682 red-light tickets issued in Brooksville generated a total of $2,348,196.

The earnings are comparable to revenues generated in the same time period by other cities with populations much greater than Brooksville's.

For example, Brooksville's red-light program made just $352,355 less than St. Petersburg's in the past year, according to state data. St. Petersburg has a population nearly 32 times the size of Brooksville's.

Numbers questioned

Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn questioned the state's numbers.

"Sarasota has 20- or 30-something cameras. Naples has them all over the place," Bradburn said. "There's no way that's even remotely true."

Renee Watters, a Department of Revenue media specialist, said the agency merely reported the figures it received from the city.

A review of the DOR spreadsheet by county legal staff also supported Brooksville ranking at No. 15 in most revenue generated.

State data showed Brooksville's red-light camera program amassed the most dollars during the winter and summer months. Between October and December of 2012, the city generated $386,365 for the state.

Revenues generated by the program nearly doubled between February and March of this year, from $88,644 to $160,937.

Between the months of March and May, the state collected $423,217 from Brooksville's red-light cameras.

According to city officials, 97 percent of those citations don't wind up in the mailboxes of Brooksville's 7,711 residents, but rather those who travel its roadways and major state roads like State Road 50 and U.S. 41.

While that's good for Brooksville in one way, County Commissioner Jim Adkins said, it sends the wrong message to businesses and to tourists when they remember Hernando County with a $158 fine.

"When you look at May, when the Blueberry Festival was in Brooksville, it went up and then jumped back down," said Adkins.

"It's interesting that it went up then came back down when the Blueberry Festival was in that month, so I wondered how many at the Blueberry Festival got a ticket."

Since last summer, when the cameras became operational again, the city estimated if it could achieve its goal of installing 20 cameras, the program could garner $2.6 million annually, with $602,721 going to the city after expenses. The city currently has 13 cameras.

Red-light comparison

Hernando Today viewed census data for all jurisdictions in Florida with red-light camera programs, and compared the state earnings from Brooksville's red-light cameras to cities with comparable populations.

Five cities with populations between 1,700 less and 1,470 greater than Brooksville's generated between $538,144 and $1,104,140 less revenue from their red-light camera programs than Brooksville.

Brooksville's red-light camera program was compared to those in Green Cove Springs, Clewiston, Groveland, North Bay Village and Surfside.

"I do know that some of the other areas have a 10- to 15-mile-an-hour right turn on red speed limit, and I believe ours is 5 and under," said City Councilman Joe Bernardini. "When you do that, to me that's way too slow."

County commissioners voted in the summer to send Brooksville City Council a resolution formally asking for the removal of two cameras on county-owned property at Cobb Road and Jefferson Street, and at U.S. 41 and Wiscon Road.

The resolution states traffic infraction detectors represent a financial hardship for people who drive in the area, and that their removal would benefit the tourism industry and businesses.

"I was recently in Tallahassee for three days, and nobody said anything about safety, and it's all about revenue," Adkins said.

"That's pitiful. That's just pitiful. I wish they'd say it was about saving lives, but it was all about revenue."

Bradburn said the city would be glad to have its legal staff review the correspondence.

"We have a contract with the county, and that contract is in effect," said Bradburn. "I'd encourage them, if they care about the safety of their residents, to implement this life-saving program countywide."

According to the "Brooksville Red-Light Camera Report" for the 2012 fiscal year, there was insufficient evidence showing a decrease in side-impact, rear-end, or total crashes at intersections with traffic infraction detectors in the city since only three intersections had them, and they were only active for one month.

Brooksville City Council voted in April 2008 to implement the red-light camera program. At the time, Brooksville Police Chief George Turner told skeptical City Council members the cameras could save lives by making motorists drive more defensively.

Between 2008 and 2009, the red-light camera program's inaugural year, the city reported a 35 percent reduction in crashes, Turner said.

The police chief cited a 2012 Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles report showing only 0.5 percent of motorists who go through Brooksville intersections with cameras receive red-light violation citations.

"There's no trickery," Turner said. "The vast, vast majority of people are not the one's violating."

For every $83 the state receives from a red-light camera citation, $3 goes to a brain and spinal cord injury fund and $10 to the Health Administration trust fund.

For the 2013 fiscal year, the state added $62,454,920 to its general revenue fund from red-light camera citations, according to DOR data, $7,510,916 for the Health Administration Trust Fund, and $2,257,262 for treatment of brain and spinal cord injuries.

Recently Dunnellon, a city north of Hernando County, eliminated its red-light camera program after backlash from the business community who complained the cameras were affecting tourism.

mreinig@hernandotoday.com (352) 544-5271

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