Monday, February 28, 2011

Speed Cameras

Traffic Cameras

            By now you have seen and read about the stunningly successful traffic camera program in Laurel which reportedly racked up six thousand citations in a week! Doing the math at $40 per citation, that means a gross of $240,000 or a net of $144,000 in a week for the City. This means that it is likely that the most successful business in Laurel is the Cherry Lane Speed Cameras. Certainly it is unlikely that any business in our beleaguered Mall cleared that much profit in any week this century.

            Like any successful business, it should come as no surprise that the City is expanding their operations. There are now a total of five cameras in our fair City. While I am in favor of reducing speed and presumably increasing safety around our schools, I am also excited about the revenue possibilities. If all five cameras “earn” at the rate of their sister cameras the net revenue for our City could be as much as $18,720,000 ($24 net per fine multiplied by 3000 citations per camera-5 of them-multiplied by 52 weeks). That should mean a 50% reduction in our tax bills. If we ran the program in house we might realize an additional $12,720,000 (the revenues are split 60-40) and eliminate the City property tax altogether.

            Now no one could reasonably expect a business to maintain such a high level of “success” week after week, day after day. Therefore, let us assume that 80% of the City’s “customers” wise up and no longer speed and revenue drops to say $3,744,000. This amounts to 13.5% of our annual budget of $27,627,856 million dollars. So operating at 20%, these cameras will pay for roughly half of the entire public safety budget! This leaves me torn, do I root for speeders and presumably lower taxes or decreased speeds and safer streets? Since I can’t control what people do behind the wheel, perhaps I’ll be hopelessly optimistic and root for both!