- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s fiscal 2008 budget overestimates expected revenue from the city’s speed camera program by roughly $12 million, creating at least the third gap in the mayor’s initial spending proposal.

The speed-camera revenue “does need to be adjusted,” said Maryann Young, a spokeswoman for D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi.

“We try to send reality to Hill and that’s what’s going to happen to that particular number.”

City officials initially said the projected increase was based on revenue collection so far this fiscal year and from historical revenue totals.

According to Metropolitan Police Department figures, violators paid $32.8 million in speed camera fines in fiscal 2006 a figure slightly below the $33 million in revenue projected for fiscal 2008.

But the $32.8 million collected in fiscal 2006 was a gross figure that did not include operating costs and refunds to be subtracted from the overall revenue amount.

According to Mr. Fenty’s budget figures, the District netted just $20.8 million in speed camera fines during fiscal 2006. At that pace, the program would have to increase its haul by more than 50 percent to meet Mr. Fenty’s projections.

A Fenty administration official acknowledged there would not be a $12 million increase in camera revenue and said the numbers in the budget were cleared by the CFO’s office.

Ms. Young said tweaking figures is not uncommon before a final budget is passed by the council and that the overestimate would be revised by then. Members are scheduled to take a final vote on Mr. Fenty’s budget June 5 before sending it to Congress for approval.

“It’s not unusual for numbers to be adjusted,” Ms. Young said.

Mr. Fenty has said he supports the cameras as a public safety tool.

“You see how many traffic accidents we have,” Mr. Fenty said. “We need more cameras coming, not less.”

The inaccurate projection could contribute to concerns about Mr. Fenty’s various budget proposals.

In March, council member Carol Schwartz said the Fenty administration’s proposal to transfer local funding for the Office of Contracting and Procurement and the Department of Human Resources to intradistrict funding could result in a $30 million spending hole.

Mrs. Schwartz, at-large Republican, called the system “ripe for abuse.”

But Fenty officials said the administration would be working with city agencies within the existing budget to fund the new responsibilities.

Council member Phil Mendelson also has criticized Mr. Fenty’s plan to increase a surcharge on telephone bills from 76 cents for most residents to $1.55, calling the surcharge a tax increase.

Mr. Gandhi last month told the council that if members did not approve the tax increase, millions more in funding would have to be found elsewhere in the budget to balance the city’s finances.

Mr. Fenty also hopes to repeal a calculated rate mechanism that Mr. Mendelson says has led to a decrease in residential tax rates in the District.

Repealing the mechanism will result in a one-cent increase in the residential tax rate, Mr. Mendelson said.

David C. Lipscomb contributed to this report.

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