WATERLOO — Revenue generated by planned red light and speed enforcement cameras in Waterloo has been designated for future property tax relief.

City Council members voted unanimously Monday to approve a resolution calling for the revenue to be kept in a committed police department account to be applied two years later to reduce the city’s overall tax askings.

“This would be a new revenue source for the city,” said Chief Financial Officer Michelle Weidner. “If the council elects to use it as revenue in the police department budget, that will reduce the property tax askings for the police department.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be a lower tax bill for any certain individual,” she added. “But it does mean whatever the costs are will be reduced by that revenue.”

Weidner said the idea to segregate the funds for two years will allow the city to use only the known amount of cash collected and would not expose the city’s budget to what could be an extremely volatile revenue source.

Council members voted 6-1 Aug. 7 to authorize the use of automated traffic enforcement cameras and approved a contract with Gatso USA to install and operate the cameras at intersections and locations approved by Police Chief Dan Trelka.

Councilman Bruce Jacobs voted against installing the cameras but supported the proposed use of the revenue.

While Trelka and Gatso USA officials said automated enforcement cameras have been proven to reduce traffic accidents in other communities, the proposed use of the cameras has generated a backlash from individuals who contend the move is simply a way for the city to grow its revenues.

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This week’s decision to earmark the money for property tax reduction drew a single objection during the council meeting.

Resident Doug Smith opposed the resolution, saying it appeared to be drafted as a revenue-generating measure.

“Personally I don’t have a problem with safety measures,” he said. “If red light enforcement can be improved with cameras, fine. If speeds can be kept at safe levels using cameras, fine. But I have a real problem with using these cameras as revenue tools.”

Smith noted the city will become dependent on the revenues it receives, which will make it difficult to remove them in the future or could force a spike in taxes if the Legislature or courts required their removal.

He suggested the city should give the money to local nonprofit agencies.

“Do something that benefits the community, especially those that are struggling to get by,” Smith said.

“This way you can prove everyone wrong who accuses you of just establishing a sideways tax to enhance city revenue without doing the heavy lifting of adjusting taxes.”

Trelka said his department could begin using mobile and handheld speed enforcement cameras soon. Intersections are still be evaluated for cameras to catch those running red lights.

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Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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