Jacksonville, FL - They’re not bringing in the money expected and could actually wind up costing more than expected by the time they’re all fully functional.
A WOKV investigation has uncovered that, for the second year in a row, the red light cameras are not expected to bring in the revenue initially projected.
When they were first placed in the FY12-13 budget, it was with the expectation that they would bring in $1.5 million. The most recent estimate available from the Sheriff’s Office says they actually brought in $62,523.35. The final number for this budget cycle is expected to be higher, but nowhere near the initial expectation.
WOKV discovered the FY 13-14 proposed budget from the Mayor’s Office included a revenue estimate of $1,102,248 from the cameras. We asked Finance Chair Greg Anderson about these projections, and have been since told by the Council Auditor’s Office that the Sheriff’s Office adjusted those projections down to $732,207, leaving a budget shortfall of $370,041.
So we then went to the Sheriff’s Office to learn why, yet again, the red light cameras were not expected to live up to the early projections.
Undersheriff Dwain Senterfitt tells me the main driver is that about one third of the cameras still haven’t been installed, despite the contractor Redflex, initially expecting they would all be up and functional earlier this year.
“That process, for a variety of reasons, took a little longer than they thought it would take,” he says.
Many of those reasons tie back to permitting. Specifically, Senterfitt says cameras are some of the busiest intersections- along Blanding- currently have construction taking place, and they will not be able to put the cameras up until the construction is completed.
He says the Sheriff’s Office is more concerned about the fact that those intersections- which were identified as needing red light cameras because of their higher incidence of crashes and violations- continue to go unmonitored, meaning your safety could be affected. Revenue is, however, directly tied to it as well.
And that’s not the only problem.
Senterfitt says many of the cameras that are in place are having problems because of the sun’s glare.
“It made it very difficult to absolutely say that the person ran the red light by the video camera,” Senterfitt says.
Redflex sends the violations to JSO to verify before the $158 citation is sent to you. Senterfitt says the still photos captured clearly show violations, but the video- which is posted for you to view- does not clearly show the violation because of the glare.
“We don’t write those citations because we’re gunna air on the side of being right with that,” he says.
So, many of the cameras aren’t bringing in the expected revenue because of problems with the cameras themselves leading to citations being thrown out.
And it’s a problem that needs to be fixed.
Senterfitt says Redflex is now replacing the problem cameras with HD ones that won’t be affected by the glare. When WOKV pressed for details on who is paying for that fix, Senterfitt said Redflex is covering 20% at no cost, and the rest is a negotiation.
“I believe we’ll be able to negotiate something pretty favorable on that,” he says.
He says the potential for a glare is something that Redflex and JSO has discussed, which led to this current agreement. He thinks Redflex will see the benefit in installing the new cameras and cut JSO a deal but, ultimately, concedes it is a negotiation.
I brought the question straight to Redflex about who they think should be shouldering the bill, and why glare wasn’t more seriously addressed during initial installation. They directed my questions back to JSO.
Given these outstanding questions, I asked Senterfitt how confident the Sheriff’s Office is with the current budget projection for next year, given that it is still ten times greater than what the cameras brought in this year. He says expectations are now in line and believes the other cameras should be up and running fairly early in this budget year.