Amendments Proposed for Traffic Fine Agreement

The Province has consulted with UBCM regarding its intention to amend the Traffic Fine Revenue Sharing Agreement (TFRSA). As part of consultation, UBCM has provided responses to a set of proposals outlined by the office of the Attorney General.

On April 5, 2018, the provincial government advised UBCM of its intention to consult with local governments about the potential of amending the TFRSA. UBCM responded with a letter that outlined the importance of the TFRSA as a revenue source for local government.

Introduced in 1999 as an unconditional grant, the TFRSA was amended in 2004 to provide 100% of net provincial traffic fine revenue (violation fines minus provincial recovery costs) to local governments. While local governments over 5,000 in population receive a percentage of traffic fine revenue from the Province, local governments under 5,000 in population receive traffic fine revenue through a reduction in the Police Tax. Traffic fine revenue is not allocated based on the jurisdiction where a ticket is issued, but rather the ratio of a local government’s policing costs to aggregate local government policing costs in BC. In 2017/18, local governments received $53.4 million in traffic fine revenue. 

Local governments commonly spend up to 30% of their budgets on protective services. According to provincial data, in 2014, 75 B.C. local governments spent $1.08 billion on policing services. By 2016, that number rose to $1.19 billion, an increase of over $100 million per year in policing costs borne by local governments. 

The consultation with the Province was held just prior to the UBCM convention. UBCM appointed a select committee to meet with provincial representatives. As part of this process, the Province required that the select committee sign a confidentiality agreement. 

The Province stated during the consultation that the proposed changes would not reduce the grants currently provided to local government. The following summary encapsulates proposals by the Province provided during the TFRSA consultation along with UBCM’s responses.

Intersection Safety Cameras – Red Light (ISC-RL)

Proposal: As a measure to reduce intersection crashes, the provincial government has placed 140 red light cameras at intersections where there is a history of serious crashes. Vehicles entering an intersection after the traffic light turns red have their rear licence plates photographed and sent to the intersection safety camera office for review. The Province has funded initial capital and operating costs to increase active enforcement levels from 25% to 100%; red light enforcement is now operational 24 hours/day.

The provincial government would like to recover ongoing operating costs, as well funds necessary for capital upgrades, should any occur in the future. These ongoing costs would include funding for staff to process tickets and special provincial constables (appointed under the Police Act) to review, charge and prosecute disputed tickets. Local governments would still receive all net revenue (gross revenue minus ongoing and capital costs), distributed using the same formula as is currently used.

Response: UBCM accepts that the Province should be able to recover clearly defined costs associated with operating the ISC-RL cameras. Capital expenditures required to enhance/expand this program or support ongoing operations and maintenance, where reasonable and are determined to result in net positive revenue, must be discussed with, and approved in advance by UBCM.

Intersection Safety Cameras – Speed Activation (ISC-SA)

Proposal: The provincial government is planning to upgrade approximately one-quarter of existing intersection safety cameras to provide for speed activation. These sites will be locations where speeding and crashes are over-represented. The Province is currently undertaking analysis of crash and speed data to determine best locations, and will further consult with municipal engineering and local police to ensure the sites are not planned for major construction and are most appropriate to support traffic enforcement. The Province intends to pay for initial capital and operating expenses.

The provincial government would like to recover ongoing operating costs, as well as future capital and expansion costs, should those occur in the future. Local governments would still receive all net revenue (gross revenue minus ongoing and capital costs), distributed using the same formula as is currently used.

Response: As with the ISC-RL proposal, UBCM accepts that the Province should be able to recover clearly defined costs associated with operating the ISC-SA cameras. Capital expenditures required to enhance/expand this program or support ongoing operations and maintenance, where reasonable and determined to result in net positive revenue, must be discussed with and approved in advance by UBCM.

Road Safety Initiative (eTicketing)

Proposal: The electronic ticketing process involves officers being issued new software for their mobile terminals that pre-populates the violation ticket information, including automatically calculating fines based on parameters entered (e.g. rate of speed). Police officers may then physically issue tickets by printing them with mobile thermal printers that will be installed in their vehicles. Individuals will now be able to pay their electronic tickets online, in addition to the current methods of payment. The provincial government is funding all start-up and capital costs. A pilot project is currently running in five communities.

The provincial government would like to recover annual operating costs, including system upgrades/operation (e.g. online payment system, data distribution), maintenance, and new staffing requirements. Local governments will still receive all net revenue (gross revenue minus ongoing and capital costs), distributed using the same formula as is currently used. Hardware replacement will be a local government responsibility.

Response: UBCM accepts that the Province should be able to recover operating costs equivalent to provincial projections, for the purpose of operating the eTicketing and online payment systems. Cost recovery should factor in provincial funds previously committed to upgrade ICBC’s system, PRIME-BC, and the court system. Anything beyond these costs will require additional local government consultation.

Administrative Justice Tribunal

Proposal: The Province may introduce an administrative justice tribunal for traffic violation disputes as a less expensive and faster alternative to the current traffic court model. While consideration of this is only in the conceptual stage, the Province believes this new alternative would result in significant cost savings (e.g. through a reduction in overtime that often results from police officers attending traffic court) and time savings for drivers disputing their violations. Direction to implement this initiative has not been received.

The provincial government would like to recover operating costs associated with the administrative justice tribunal, similar to how costs are being recovered for operation of the traffic court model.

Response: UBCM supports allocating an amount of traffic fine revenue equivalent to the five-year average of traffic court costs towards addressing traffic offences (through the traffic court and the administrative justice tribunal). Any remaining funds would be put back into the pool of traffic fine revenue to be allocated to local governments. This position is based on the provincial government’s claim that the administrative justice tribunal is expected to result in overall costs savings (when factoring in the cost of continuing to operate the traffic court system). The desire is for the total cost of the traffic court and administrative justice tribunal to remain below the current five-year average cost of operating the traffic court.

Collision Reduction Program

Proposal: A Collision Reduction Program that would focus on reducing collisions in high-crash intersections. Such a program could provide a harmonized approach to funding road safety and would be developed in partnership with local governments. Examples of initiatives that may be pursued under this proposed program include high friction surface treatments and advanced stop lines. As a pilot project, the Province has announced 14 high-collision intersections that will receive high friction surface treatments, with hopes of reducing rear end collisions.

The provincial government would like to fund all or a portion of the Collision Reduction Program out of traffic fine revenue. The amount of traffic fine revenue that would go towards this proposed program has not been discussed.

Response: UBCM does not support the proposal to develop a collision reduction program for the following reasons:

  • The Collision Reduction Program, as understood by UBCM, does not align with the existing unconditional nature of the TFRSA and/or other proposed changes to the TFRSA;
  • The conditionality of the Collision Reduction Program would limit a fair and equitable distribution of funding to all BC local governments;
  • With ever-increasing cost pressures on delivering public safety services, UBCM cannot support re-directing funding that would otherwise be used to support policing;
  • There are alternative approaches to incentivize the implementation of emerging and/or best practices that support road safety and reduce collisions. These include existing or new funding programs outside the TFRSA; and,
  • This proposal, from what has been discussed with UBCM, seeks to develop initiatives that UBCM members have repeatedly requested that the Province undertake and fund directly, including highway upgrades/treatments and improved line markings.

Traffic Fine Revenue Sharing Grants to Local Governments

Currently TFRSA grants to local governments are unconditional, although the intention is that money be spent on community safety initiatives. The provincial government did not make a formal proposal with regards to grant conditions, although a discussion did take place regarding whether TFRSA grants to local governments should remain unconditional. UBCM supports the idea of keeping TFRSA grants unconditional. Not only are local governments highly transparent, but any reporting requirements could become an administrative burden, especially for smaller communities.

UBCM General Position

Changes to the Traffic Fine Revenue Sharing Agreement need to be made carefully, and with consideration of the cost of delivering protective services as a whole. While the provincial government may face cost pressures due to the implementation of automated enforcement, local governments continue to face significant cost increases related to issues including, but not limited to, arbitrated settlements, opioid response, and changes to RCMP policing (e.g. impending unionization, new Auxiliary Program, etc.).

UBCM is supportive of modernizing the traffic fine system. Typically, UBCM does not support proposals whereby operational costs are to be recovered from local government revenue. In this case, as long as costs are clearly defined, UBCM recognizes that there is a cost to updating the traffic fine system, and these changes have the potential to provide a financial net benefit to local governments.

Provincial government proposals clearly defined and thoroughly discussed with UBCM have been supported. Proposals lacking pertinent information and containing a high level of uncertainty have not been supported.

UBCM also remains committed to the general principle that local governments require 100% of all net traffic fine revenue, especially at a time when community safety costs continue to increase year over year. With limited revenue generating tools available to local government, providing predictable revenue is one of the ways in which the TFRSA can best support local jurisdictions.

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