Red-light runners seen as source of new revenue

Balto. County expects to generate millions more in fines next year

May 04, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County hopes to begin cashing in next fall on motorists who run red lights.

With the county set to install video cameras at 35 intersections to capture red-light runners on tape, officials estimate that police will collect $4.8 million more in fines issued to motorists in the coming year.

The cameras will be installed by next fall, and the budget estimate is based on a fine of $70 per ticket, said Baltimore County budget director Fred Homan, after a County Council briefing on the proposed $1.7 billion county budget.

Homan said the system is similar to monitoring systems installed in Baltimore City and Howard County and which are being installed in Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties.

Cameras will be placed at intersections where police believe motorists are running the most red lights, and they may be moved occasionally from intersection to intersection, county officials said.

Homan said the amount collected in fines is likely to drop each year as motorists catch on to the presence of the cameras.

"The idea is to have a decreasing revenue source because you're trying to discourage a specific activity," Homan said.

Homan made the comments yesterday while county Auditor Brian J. Rowe presented highlights of the proposed county budget to the council.

Rowe told the council that he thought County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger's estimates of income tax revenues for the coming year are low.

Ruppersberger's budget expects $390 million in income taxes to be collected next year, an increase of 0.2 percent over this year. It also projects an $82 million budget surplus by next summer.

Rowe said both figures are likely to be lower than what the county will collect in taxes.

"You'll have a higher surplus," Rowe said. But he added that he was working on his estimates for the surplus and income tax revenues.

Homan defended the budget's revenue estimates, saying they are not too conservative and are based on the best information available about county income levels. "I believe our revenue estimates are sound," Homan said.

Rowe also told the council that $32 million, or roughly half of the increased spending in the proposed budget, is being used for salary increases.

Police pay increases will cost the county an additional $6.9 million next year, while teacher salaries are going up another $12.1 million, Rowe said.

The 2 percent pay raises for general government, library and community college staffers will cost an additional $7.4 million, and firefighters' pay increases cost another $2.9 million, Rowe said.

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