Sugar Land lost out on $3.7M as a result of HB 1631 banning red-light cameras, audit shows

Outstanding fines and forfeitures from Sugar Land's red-light camera program totaled $3.7 million, according to an audit presented to City Council Feb. 18 from Houston-based accounting firm Whitley Penn.

"These were receivables out there on those red-light camera fines that had not been collected at the time," Whitley Penn audit partner Chris Breaux said.

As a result of Texas' 86th legislative session, House Bill 1631 was signed into law, banning the use of red-light cameras in the state. This resulted in the cancellation of any outstanding fines from the duration of the program.

"Thanks again to the state government, the governor, [lieutenant governor] and others that think they can run the city business better than the elected officials that actually represent the residents of the city," Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman said during the Feb. 18 audit presentation.

In Sugar Land, red-light cameras were implemented in 2007 and removed in compliance with HB 1631 in summer 2019. Roughly 23% of violations issued in Sugar Land throughout the program’s duration remained unpaid as of June 1. Under HB 1631, outstanding violation fees stopped being collected, Sugar Land Police Chief Eric Robins said in an interview with Community Impact Newspaper in July. In fact, any payments that were in the pipeline but had not been processed were returned, Robins said.


Additionally, about 70% of violators did not live in Sugar Land, and nearly 90% of violators did not receive a second ticket, Robins said.

"The state government took away from us the authority to protect our residents with red-light cameras," Zimmerman said. "All those fees that were due from people that ran those red-light cameras that we had to write off because there was no way to recover that number."
By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


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