Dwindling photo radar funds could prompt tax hike to cover traffic safety and police shortfall


A forecasted $14.6 million drop in photo radar and other purposes has the city considering different ways to maintain funding for Edmonton police and traffic safety initiatives.

On Wednesday, the city’s executive committee proposed topping off the funding shortfall for the traffic safety automated enforcement reserve (TSAER) fund with a property tax increase between 2023-26.

The TSAER, which gathers revenue from photo radar and other tickets, funded past snow and ice control programs and Vision Zero initiatives, like safe crossings, speed limit reduction projects, and safe speed toolkits.

In addition, the Edmonton Police Service also receives a $22.3 million annual transfer from the fund.

According to city administration, revenues from automated enforcement activities have “declined sharply” due to the provincial government taking a larger cut, reductions in traffic violations, and the freeze on new photo radar sites instituted across Alberta.

Last year, the city forecasted it would collect $29.1 million from traffic enforcement activities but fell short by approximately $9.3 million. That was absorbed by “an existing positive balance.” The city says there is only $7.4 million left in the fund.

‘POSITIVE OUTCOME’

Now city administration says council needs a revamped strategy as the TSAER fund is projected to end 2022 with a $9.1 million deficit.

“Violation trends since 2012 demonstrate a year-over-year decline in infractions at previously established sites as driver behavior improves through the presence of automated enforcement,” a report to city council’s executive committee said.

There is a 10 per cent reduction in traffic safety violations at photo radar sites annually, the city says, and a 15 per cent reduction in tickets issued by automated traffic cameras.

“The decrease in revenues is actually a great sign that these tools work, and that they create safer streets in our communities,” Anne Stevenson, Ward O’Day-min councillor, told CTV News Edmonton.

Due to this funding reduction, projects to improve street safety through the TSAER, like infrastructure upgrading and safe crossing improvements, will either need to be reduced to match available funds or new revenue streams sought.

‘NO OTHER REVENUE SOURCES’

Stevenson said a tax increase is the only other tool the city has left.

“We have no other revenue sources,” she said. “This is a huge constraint that we face as a municipality in terms of our ability to generate revenue.”

“Unfortunately automated enforcement was one of the ways that we could both generate revenue and keep our communities safer.”

Erin Rutherford, Ward Anirniq councillor, proposed the motion considering the potential tax increase, saying Edmontonians want stable funding for EPS and traffic safety measures and the best way to do this is a small tax increase spread over time.

“The report clearly demonstrates this funding reserve and the revenue from it is unsustainable,” Rutherford said. “I’ve heard from my constituents how important police are and how important traffic safety is.

“I would say traffic safety is one of the biggest volume, maybe next to snow and ice clearing, of calls my office receives,” she added.

“The choice we’re facing now is if we weren’t to do a tax levy increase, we’re going to choose not to fund the police, and I don’t think any of us really want to see that money lost. “

City council is scheduled to consider the proposal next week.


With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson


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