NEW ORLEANS -- The city's traffic cameras became a hot-button issue after their numbers nearly doubled over the past year.
The big question for mayoral candidates during WWL-TV's televised debate on Oct. 11 was if the revenue justified the cameras and what should be changed. However, the estimate that traffic cameras will bring in $25 million this year doesn't hold up.
At our Eyewitness News mayoral debate last night, we asked this question: "Should the traffic and speed cameras be suspended in light of the roughly $25 million in revenue they generate?"
"They should go, except for school zones," answered Michael Bagneris.
While Bagneris wants many of them gone, Desiree Charbonnet wants to take advantage of the revenue they produce to slowly replace them.
"They should go when we can build up the police department, who can then patrol for traffic violations once again," Charbonnet said.
But it was LaToya Cantrell's answer that caught our attention.
"They should definitely go and it's not generating $25 million," Cantrell said.
So how much money are the 100 plus cameras in New Orleans generating? We decided to verify.
To find an answer, we went directly to the City of New Orleans public records.
In 2015, the cameras brought in $16.1 million before costs, according to the city's published budget.
In 2016, they brought in $17.15 million, one million more than projected. After operating costs, the city's net profit was $11.8 million.
According to the Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR), the city's projected amount for 2017 is $24 million.
The estimate increased this year because the number of fixed and mobile cameras nearly doubled.
Around $8.5 million is expected to go to the out-of-state company American Traffic Solutions for operating the cameras and there are costs for administrative hearings on contested tickets. That would leave $15.5 million net revenue that the city could get.
So far this year, the traffic cameras have taken in $11.3 million. If the trend continues, even with nearly twice the amount of cameras on the street, they would only bring in $16.98 million for 2017. That is less than last year, and far less than the projected $25 million. The projected operating costs would be $7.3 million, leaving the city with only $9.6 million. That's $6 million less than it predicted.
So we can verify Councilwoman Cantrell's statement, that it is highly unlikely the city will get $25 million this year from traffic camera tickets.
Now, the new cameras were not installed on time in January. Installation in school zones began in June and was completed earlier this month.
So it is unclear how much that could add to the final revenue for the year.
Jeff Adelson of The New Orleans Advocate contributed to this report.