Greg Bassett: Speeders are helping the city’s coffers

A big revenue source for the city, deep in Account No. 445140 of Mayor Jim Ireton’s proposeGreg Bassettd 2016 budget, is money from fines collected from speed cameras placed in school zones across the city.

The budget, which takes effect July 1, forecasts $860,000 in receipts from the eight cameras inside the city limits. In the current fiscal budget, $740,000 in revenue was projected. The city collected $778,055 in speed camera fines in fiscal 2014.

The city has since added cameras on Riverside Drive and South Division Street, hence the projected increase in speeding fines.

Wicomico County operates its own speed cameras, but the county’s are mobile — hidden inside unmarked Sheriff’s Department vehicles and moved around to various school sites outside the city’s limits.

The cameras have become an important revenue source for city coffers.

If one were to apply the revenue number to a per capita calculation, cameras generate $27.30 from each and every one of Salisbury’s 31,507 residents.

The fines, of course, don’t only get applied to city residents: If you apply that number out to the county, the figure is $8.53 for each of the county’s 100,896 residents.

The closest comparable revenue source in the city budget is $680,000 in trash fees.

When contacted for a quote on the issue, Ireton demonstrated the usual sense of humor he employs when assessing a reporter’s intent.

“The article (headline) can either be ‘Speed cameras still catching speeders’ or ‘City hauls in money from speed cameras,’” the mayor said.

“In the end, people exceeded the limit and are paying tickets.”

City Council President Jake Day makes a point that the speed camera revenue acts as a tax avoidance, since the payers are only the violators. The program keeps speeding — and taxes down.

 

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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