TAMPA — The Tampa City Council learned Thursday that it can restrict how revenue from the city's planned system of red-light traffic enforcement cameras can be used, but it did not move to do so.
At least not yet.
Council member Frank Reddick has talked of directing money from the red-light cameras toward improving the intersections and sidewalks where they will be placed.
The city plans to install red-light cameras at 15 crash-prone intersections around town, including several on Hillsborough Avenue, Dale Mabry Highway and Gandy Boulevard. They are expected to go into operation in November, and fines would be $158, with $75 going to the city and $83 to the state.
On Thursday, council attorney Martin Shelby told council members they can pass an ordinance that restricts nontax revenue, though there needs to be a connection between the revenue, in this case a traffic fine, and the use designated by the council.
There would be, council members said.
"Pedestrian safety is at the core of the red-light camera," council member Lisa Montelione said.
But there could be a catch.
Shelby also noted that the council can't force the mayor to spend the money that it restricts for a special purpose. If the mayor chooses not to spend the money, then it sits in the designated fund.
City officials also said that if the council earmarked some of the anticipated $2 million in annual revenue from the cameras for transportation and pedestrian improvements, then that much less would be available to close a $34.5 million shortfall in the city's budget.
Hearing that, council members said they would wait until at least after the city's budget discussions to take any further steps, though they hinted at some possible approaches.
Council member Yvonne Yolie Capin suggested putting up flashing yellow lights, which she said would reduce red-light running. Reddick floated the idea of designating any revenue over $2 million — the amount Mayor Bob Buckhorn's administration plans to use in closing its budget gap — for intersection and pedestrian improvements.
But, he said, "I will hold off until we have the budget discussion."