Thursday, May 18, 2006

City May Owe The Schools Millions

WWAY TV 3

If an appeals court ruling holds up the City of Wilmington will have to pay millions to New Hanover County Schools.

The court says the schools should get 90 percent of the revenue raised by the City's red light cameras.

New Hanover County School Board member Steve Bilzi said, "As much as we feel for the City and we understand completely the situation, it kind of looks like it is what it is. That's been our argument all along. We didn't ask for it. We didn't do it. We're just the fortunate recipients of this, which is a rare treat."

City officials say they would pay the board about $2.8 million. They already have $1.7 million saved.

City officials are not sure right now what the court ruling means for the future of the safe-light program here.

Council members are expected to talk about the future of the system at their upcoming budget retreat.

This can't be a surprise for Wilmington. After this measure passed the 2004 election it was talked about how the city's stop light camera program apeared to violate the amendment with something like 75 % (I'm guessing here) going to the administrators of the program.

The amendment to the state constitution read like this on the ballot:

Constitutional amendment to provide that the General Assembly may place the clear proceeds of civil penalties, civil forfeitures, and civil fines collected by a State agency in a State fund to be used exclusively for maintaining free public schools.
This amendment applied to section 7 of Article IX of the North Carolina constitution. Which now reads as follows:
Sec. 7. County school fund; State fund for certain moneys.

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, all moneys, stocks, bonds, and other property belonging to a county school fund, and the clear proceeds of all penalties and forfeitures and of all fines collected in the several counties for any breach of the penal laws of the State, shall belong to and remain in the several counties, and shall be faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for maintaining free public schools.

(b) The General Assembly may place in a State fund the clear proceeds of all civil penalties, forfeitures, and fines which are collected by State agencies and which belong to the public schools pursuant to subsection (a) of this section. Moneys in such State fund shall be faithfully appropriated by the General Assembly, on a per pupil basis, to the counties, to be used exclusively for maintaining free public schools. (2003‑423, s.1.)
While the arguement was that the city not the state was levying the fines, in February 2005, a superior Court judge said that this amendment applied to money collected by High Point from it's red light carmera because it was collected for someone breaking the stat's penal laws. I voted against this amendment because I felt it was un-needed. Most of the money collected at the time was already going to the schools so why lock yourself into it with an amendment. I remember talking about this very subject on the Morning Line before the November general election and the possibility of Wilmington's camera system being affected. Of course because the amendment was "for the kids" it passed.

Sources:
NC Constitution
News-Record.com

posted by David at 12:21 AM :: Permalink ::

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