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I-29 speed camera demonstration 2011

A speed camera on Interstate 29 in Sioux City is shown in 2011. On Wednesday night the Iowa Supreme Court conducted a hearing dealing with a traffic citation that was issued by an I-29 speed camera in 2012.

SIOUX CITY | Speed and red light cameras may be leaving Sioux City, taking $4 million in revenue with them.

Interim City Manager Bob Padmore said $4 million in funding was removed from the proposed fiscal year 2015 budget released Tuesday because there is little confidence the state will allow many of the cameras to stay. The projections do not include any revenue from two speed cameras stationed on Interstate 29, and only include about $100,000 from the city’s red light cameras.

The city will need to raise property taxes, increase fees, make funding cuts, implement layoffs or use a combination of all four options to make up the lost revenue, officials said. 

“If that money were in the budget, we wouldn’t have this shortfall,” Padmore said. “We will be bringing back options to reduce the deficit.”

The cameras are currently the focal point of a statewide debate pitting public safety against the perception the cameras are used to generate revenue for cash-strapped municipalities.

The Iowa Transportation Commission unanimously approved new rules in December giving transportation officials control over whether speed and red-light cameras are placed by cities and counties on state-supervised highways and interstates.

The regulations, which still need to go through a public hearing, would require municipalities to justify the use of cameras on an annual basis, and to ensure cameras are used in high-accident or high-risk areas.

If the proposal is approved, Sioux City would have to remove its two speed cameras. Three red light cameras could remain since they are not on state roads, and two others could potentially remain since they only border a state road.

To make up some of the lost funding, Tuesday’s budget proposal calls for a $17.44 per $1,000 assessed property tax levy rate, up from the current rate of $16.25.

The average taxpayer with a $100,000 home would pay $852 in property tax under the proposal in fiscal year 2015, up $83 from the current year.

The proposed levy would generate $42.2 million in property taxes, up $3.76 million from the current year.

The proposed tax rate would be the highest seen in Sioux City since 2010, when the rate was $17.85.

Mayor Bob Scott said the levy reflects a worst-case scenario, and that city officials will bring other options forward to avoid a tax hike.

Scott said Tuesday’s proposal likely will incite a flood of phone calls from concerned residents, but reiterated the council will be looking to reduce the rate.

Council members Dan Moore and Rhonda Capron also said they hoped to settle on a lower levy rate once budget talks are done.

“It may or may not be the case,” Scott said of the increase. “It fuels a fire we don’t need to fuel right now.”

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Nate Robson is the education reporter for the Journal. He writes about issues impacting local school districts and colleges.

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