Local Government

Fewer paying Cedar Rapids traffic camera tickets

Camera vendor Gatso gets more as Cedar Rapids' share dips

CEDAR RAPIDS — Vendor Gatso USA last year saw an increase in its cut from operating Cedar Rapids’ speed cameras, even though the city’s revenue dipped as fewer people pay their traffic camera tickets.

A state Legislative Fiscal Bureau report shows fewer people are paying their traffic camera tickets in Cedar Rapids.

Max Freund / The Gazette

Only 55 percent — or 85,495 of the 154,323 tickets issued in fiscal 2016 — were paid. That’s down from 65 percent, or 90,456 out of 139,438 citations issued, the previous year, the report found.

In that time, a settlement between 31 state attorneys general, including Iowa’s, and the major credit reporting agencies forbade using unpaid traffic camera tickets as black marks on credit scores — until then the primary muscle behind collecting.

The traffic camera tickets are considered civil fines that do not affect a driving record like traditional tickets.

About the same time, the Iowa Department of Transportation released an order in March 2015 to turn off three traffic cameras in Cedar Rapids and move another two, including the four most prolific cameras on Interstate 380.

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These actions may have confused speeders about the legitimacy of tickets still issued while the Iowa DOT order was being challenged, Mayor Ron Corbett has said.

Cedar Rapids declined to disclose paid versus unpaid tickets for previous years, but provided an accounting spreadsheet of bad debt — or unpaid tickets.

Bad debt nearly tripled in a year from $1.9 million in fiscal 2015 to $5.5 million in fiscal 2016, according to city data.

City revenues took a hit, declining about 27 percent from $4.7 million in fiscal 2015 to $3.4 million in fiscal 2016.

But Gatso USA, which is based in Beverly, Mass., saw an increase.

City payments to Gatso increased about 8 percent from $2.1 million in fiscal 2015 to $2.3 million in fiscal 2016, the data showed.

Its contract with the city, which was extended in December through 2018, spells out a revenue split: one-third of ticket revenue for it and two thirds for the city.

Gatso gets $25 per speeding violation and $27 per red-light offense.

Also by contract, Gatso invoices Cedar Rapids on the first day of the month for all citations paid during the previous month. Cedar Rapids also pays it $15 per camera per hour whenever an Amber Alert is issued, with an allowance for the first 30 minutes of an alert five times a month.

In fiscal 2015, Gatso’s revenue from the camera program accounted for about 32 percent of the total revenue, But fiscal 2016, it grew to about 40 percent.

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A city official said the discrepancy in the revenues is due to fluctuations in when invoices are filed by Gatso and when they are paid by the city.

“Timing of when the city records the revenue and when Gatso submits an invoice for payment of their portion can end up being in different years,” said city spokeswoman Maria Johnson.

Also: Read about plans for the traffic cameras and what police plan to do about enforcement on the S-Curve here.

 

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