BRICK Traffic ticket income from a lucrative red light camera program has dried up since Brick officials shut off the cameras. Now, one Republican candidate for Township Council said taxpayers are left filling the financial void.Charles D. Bacon, a Republican candidate seeking a four-year term on the Township Council, said the end of the red light camera program might partially explain recent increases seen on local tax bills. Brick's tax rate rose 1.9 cents on $100 of assessed value this year, a nearly 3 percent increase."The elimination of the traffic cameras caused an approximate $750,000 shortfall in the budget," he said in a letter to the editor shared with local news organizations. "This shortfall was never offset by spending cuts by the current all Democratic council and as a result the all-Democratic Council raised our property taxes again."Brick Mayor John G. Ducey said no such budget shortfall exists, because township officials cut programs and administrative jobs at the same time that the ticket revenue disappeared.A cash grab?Brick's red light cameras, once located on Route 70 and Chambers Bridge Road, were installed in 2009 under former Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis as part of an effort to promote safer driving through the township's busiest intersections. Fines generated by the tickets issued automatically to violators generated more than $500,000 in revenue annually.When the ticket revenue stopped, Bacon said municipal spending within Brick's $98.9 million budget was not cut in proportion to the loss."If I was on the Council with my Republican colleagues that (sic) we too would have eliminated the cameras, but we would have found a way to make the elimination of the cameras revenue neutral," he wrote.All told, between 2010 and 2014, the cameras generated $5.6 million in revenues, with the township, the state and Tempe, Arizona-based camera vendor American Traffic Solutions sharing the proceeds. Brick's share totaled nearly $3.1 million, according to municipal documents.Brick residents, however, saw red over the ticket blizzard."The cameras were simply a cash-grab on the residents and visitors of Brick," said Ducey, who ended the program less than two months into his role as mayor. "The cameras kept people away from our stores and kept people away from our restaurants. It was a hidden tax forced upon our residents."More than 85 percent of the tickets issued were for "rolling stops" where drivers turned right on red, the mayor said.The cameras also appeared to increase crashes at these intersections, he said.
In December 2009, towns across New Jersey were authorized to participate in a five-year study by the Department of Transportation to evaluate the effectiveness of monitoring systems for traffic control. When the study ended in December 2014, red light cameras at 73 intersections across the state went dark.
Ducey ended Brick's program 10 months before cameras in the rest of the state shut off. The last violations were captured by the Brick cameras in February 2014."I was not willing to balance our budget on the ill-gotten gains from these municipal cash machines that were installed under the guise of safety," Ducey said in a statement.In 2013, Brick earned $875,507 from the traffic tickets. That income dropped to $336,147 in 2014, though violations were only recorded in January and February. Had the program continued, 2014 was set to surpass Brick's previous red light revenue record.Ducey said that no revenue shortfall exists, because at the same time the camera revenue dried up, municipal officials eliminated various deputy director positions within the township. The Department of Parks and Recreation was divided and portions moved into Brick's Public Works and administration divisions. That change enabled township officials to eliminate two director positions, Ducey said.In addition, the municipal EMS service increased the amount it billed to patients to match Medicare reimbursement rates, he said.“They had been undercharging for a number a years," the mayor said.Those cuts and changes amounted to about $800,000 in savings, Ducey said.“There’s no hole in the budget, no problem with revenue," he added.With both Democrats and Republicans in Brick against the return of red light cameras, the program isn't likely to reappear soon."It is very clear to me that getting rid of the red light cameras was the right decision for the residents and visitors of Brick," said Ducey. "We in Brick were trendsetters on this issue and started the fall of the red light cameras in the entire state. The day those cameras were removed was a proud day for Brick Township."Amanda Oglesby: 732-557-5701; aoglesby@GannettNJ.com
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