Red-light cameras are a financial headache for Grand Terrace
Stephen Wall, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/28/2009 02:45:36 PM PDT
GRAND TERRACE - It's been nearly two years since red-light cameras were installed at two intersections in the city.
During that time, the city has not made a single payment to Redflex, the company that put in the cameras, which are on the corner of Mount Vernon Avenue and Barton Road and Michigan Avenue and Barton Road.
City officials say complexities in how tickets are processed through the court system account for the problem.
Until recently, the city was unable to define exactly how much money it owed Redflex.
"That money is split up so many ways, it's difficult to trace," said Bernie Simon, acting city manager and finance director.
When a violator gets a red-light citation between $500 and $600, the money is paid to the court.
The money from red-light fines and related court and traffic fees is divided between the court, state, county and city.
Simon said the city nets about 35 percent of the amount of each violation.
Redflex bills the city about $6,000 per month per intersection.
The city has a cost-neutral contract with Redflex, meaning it doesn't pay any more than it collects in fines. The contract runs through 2012.
After doing an analysis, city officials found they were not putting away enough money to pay Redflex.
From October 2007 through May, the city received $141,520 in red-light fines.
But Simon said the city set aside only $87,400, leaving a deficit of $54,120.
The city has $25,000 available in a traffic safety fund to pay part of the deficit.
But there is nearly $30,000 more the city still owes Redflex.
The money went into the traffic safety fund, but instead of being put aside for red-light fines, Simon said it was spent on traffic signs and to pay part of the city's contract with the sheriff's department for police services.
On Tuesday, the City Council agreed to pay Redflex the $87,400 and directed staff members to find out exactly where the $30,000 went, along with a plan to reimburse Redflex the remaining amount. Council members also asked for an accounting of all red-light revenues and how the money is spent.
"We need to get on top of this or this is going to get on top of us, and it's not going to be good," Councilman Jim Miller said.
Redflex representatives told the council they are willing to give the city some time to resolve the situation. The council is expected to discuss the matter again in two weeks.
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If a small business fails to pay its sales tax or employee with-holdings or consignment sales it is called theft, embezzlement of funds kiting. Bernie Simon Finance Department should have retained 100 percent of the funds that came into the city until the calculation of what is owed was clarified. Allowing funds to be spent on other purposes or allocated to any other fund or activity demonstrates fiscal malpractice and a clear reason for Bernie Simon not be considered as City Manager. It also demonstrates the need to clear the House of City.
Bernie is not the only one responsible for the lack of good financial practices in handling these funds. The Budget Games were played by Tom Schwab and Steve Berry. The City Council Voted to approve the expenditures and redirection of funds knowing there was still a question on the contractual obligation for the Red Light Services. Citizens should look back in the record for who if any objected to the movement and spending of funds for a purpose other than the intended use of the funds collected. As Finance Directer Bernie Simon should have warned the council and public of this error in judgement of the City Manager and apparently the City Council.
If a Person did this they would find themself in jail or at minim in the bankruptcy court.