Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Brooksville gives traffic cameras, fire fees a second look to fill budget gaps

BROOKSVILLE — Facing more gloom in its budget projections next year, the City Council is considering bringing back its red-light camera program and adopting new fire service fees to make up the shortage in property tax revenues.

Council members Emory Pierce, Lara Bradburn and vice mayor Joe Johnston expressed interest at a Tuesday evening financial workshop in reinstalling the cameras at the five city intersections that had them until the council voted to remove them last fall.

Over the 23 months they were in use, the cameras provided a steady revenue stream, earning the city $563,000, according to figures provided by finance director Steve Baumgartner. Police Chief George Turner said he favored bringing back the cameras because they had significantly reduced traffic accidents.

With the shift in the council's political makeup, the prospect of the cameras return seems promising.

Pierce, who replaced camera opponent Richard Lewis, said he favored reinstalling them with conditions. He said the cameras would be a good law enforcement tool and a financial caveat for the city provided they earned at least $50,000 annually.

"They still have to show they're a reasonable deal," Pierce said. "If not, it's not worth the trouble."

Council member Joe Bernardini, a staunch red-light camera opponent, said that he hadn't seen enough evidence that the cameras worked as well as Turner claimed.

"We still have no idea of what the accident numbers were before and after the cameras," Bernardini said. "That's important to me."

The council also agreed to take another look at using fire assessments as a method to partly fund the fire department, which is financed out of the general fund.

Homes in the city with a taxable value of $50,000 now are exempt from paying for fire service. Last year, the city adopted an assessment mechanism that would have charged a set fee for every residence, and assessing businesses, churches and government buildings based on square footage.

However, the council ultimately scrapped the plan after several Brooksville business owners complained the fees were inequitable and in many cases, excessive.

Council members said they felt the assessments could help alleviate the strain on the city's finances and asked that staff work with attorney Mark Lawson on a plan that would better balance the cost of service based on the frequency of calls for residential and commercial properties in the city.

"Fire service is essential to everyone in the city," Bradburn said. "We need to find a way to pay for it that's fair to everyone."

The matters are to be brought back for discussion before the council on March 7.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]

Brooksville gives traffic cameras, fire fees a second look to fill budget gaps 02/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 6:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: The unknown price tags in the mayor's race


    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has been busy promoting all sorts initiatives in the months leading up to the Nov. 7 election, doubling down on his progressive agenda without spending much money or generating much controversy. But make no mistake, the cost will come due after the election. Without a change in …

    The mayor is determined to get artist Janet Echelman to create a sculpture for the new Pier. But the cost would be much higher than what is allocated. Above is Echelman’s As If It Were Already Here in Boston.
  2. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  3. Judge won't cut prison term of man who pleads obesity


    TAMPA — A claim of obesity won't shave time off a Tampa man's prison sentence.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.
  4. Advocates for charter, public schools argue their cases at education forum


    TAMPA — Advocates of charter schools argued for diversity in education while supporters of traditional public schools charged that state funding is stacked against them during a forum Friday titled "Choices in Education."

    Schools such as Winthrop Charter School deserve greater public support, their operators say, because they offer a choice in education that is popular among parents. Public school advocates say charter and voucher schools represent a double standard in accountability and enrollment. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times]
  5. Editorial: UF shows how to preserve free speech


    The University of Florida was forced to navigate a treacherous terrain of constitutional concerns and public safety this week, all in a glaring public spotlight. In the end, Thursday's appearance by Richard Spencer was a success — as much as an unwelcome visit from a notorious white nationalist can be. The …