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Speed camera law change will save communities millions

Legislation eliminates penalty for those not using devices

WARREN — Local governments not involved in the collection of traffic camera fees no longer will be penalized if a nearby community collects speed camera fines, according to a new law signed by Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday.

The transportation budget bill passed in 2019 included new tax code that specified any community using “traffic law photo monitoring devices” was to lose money each year from the state, equal to the amount of money the municipality collected in the traffic camera fines.

However, if the amount collected in fines exceeded the amount the municipality received in local government funds, the penalty was to be taken out of the pool of local government funds distributed to all of the communities in the county. The calculations are made in July / August each year for funds distributed in January.

The result was dramatic in Trumbull County, where Girard collected $1.057 million, Weathersfield collected $1.397 million, Liberty collected $355,825 and Hubbard Township collected $13,404 during the state’s 2019 fiscal year. The amounts dropped Trumbull County’s portion of local government funds from the approximately $5.74 million distributed in 2020 to approximately $2.27 million, about a $3.47 million loss, according to documents from the Ohio Department of Taxation provided to the Tribune Chronicle by Trumbull County Auditor Adrian Biviano.

The county and community officials decide each year how to split the local government funds from the state, Biviano said. The county takes half, and the cities, townships and villages split the rest based on population.

Girard, Weathersfield and Liberty lost their entire portion. In the last distribution before the law change, Girard received $117,834, Weathersfield received $93,767 and Liberty received $136,703. Because the amount wasn’t enough to cover the entire amount the communities received in traffic camera tickets, the rest was taken out of the county’s entire pool of funds.

Communities without traffic cameras stood to lose between 44 percent and 70 percent of their funding. If the fix wasn’t made, Warren stood to lose $668,787; Niles, $101,096; and Howland, $84,725.

State Reps. Gil Blair, D-Weathersfield, and Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, both critics of the law, said they were pleased with an amendment found in Senate Bill 163.

“I am glad we were able to address this funding issue,” Blair said. “At a time when many local governments are facing financial stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that our communities receive the funds they deserve.

“This amendment will allow us to avoid any unintended financial consequences for communities in Trumbull County,” he continued.

“After meeting personally with mayors and township trustees, local officials have said they are now satisfied this bill will ensure that cities and townships who are not participating in traffic camera activity will never be financially penalized by those who are,” O’Brien said.

With this amendment, local government fund distributions will only be lowered for communities collecting traffic camera fines.

news@tribtoday.com

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