Local News

Wake Schools Claim More Money From Red Light Cameras

Posted July 18, 2007

— In tight budget times, Wake County schools may be missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more. The source: money generated from red light cameras in Wake County towns.

In 2005, Wake schools got $16,322 from Cary and $33,253 from Knightdale. Last year, they got $114,533 from Cary and $3,087 from Knightdale.

Raleigh hasn't paid anything to date, but does expect to make a payment of $80,000 in the next few weeks. Right now, 90 percent of profits after operating costs go back to schools. That’s the way the law is written specifically for Wake County.

The costs are significant. In Raleigh last year, the red light camera program brought in $872,000. The contract with camera operator ACS was $748,000. The city's costs were $40,000.

Wake School Board attorney Michael Crowell’s legal opinion is that the school system is owed more, a lot more. That’s because the State Supreme Court recently denied review of a High Point lawsuit over the lights.

In that case, the State Court of Appeals had said High Point couldn’t use the fines to pay for operating costs,  meaning 90 percent of most of the proceeds would go to schools.

Crowell said he believes the ruling applies here because the courts relied on the definition of “clear proceeds” under the state constitution. Crowell says the cost to collect fees can be deducted under the ruling, but, not routine operating costs.

Wake towns that have the red light cameras believe the specific nature of the County’s law means the court rulings do not apply to them.

Cary Town Spokesperson Susan Moran said the lights there weren’t designed to make money in the first place.

“You see, in Cary, we started the program for safety, not money,” she said.

Moran said the intent is to make intersections safer. And if there’s money left over, it’s a bonus for the school system.

School board member Ron Margiotta said that’s not the point and he’d like for the school system to go after the funds.

“Here we are searching for money to buy crayons for kids and we’re letting this money go by the wayside,” he said, referring to a recent $5 million shortfall.

The school board hasn’t been aggressive, because members have been watching the courts.

The State Supreme Court ruling just came down in June. Former board chair Patti Head said members still have to consider how profitable it would be to get caught up in a legal battle.

54 Comments

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  • pack-man Jul 20, 2007

    or everyone can stop running red lights and we won't have this conversation...

  • silver Jul 20, 2007

    My son just got a ticket for running a red light, but he was turning on red and this can be seen in the ticket.

  • WRALSUCKS Jul 19, 2007

    ""If the schools go after the towns to get 90% of fines before expenses, then the towns will be going SERIOUSLY in the red with the red-light program.""

    Now there's a positive thought... In other words, if the towns actually obey the law, there's no point to it. Imagine that!!

  • WRALSUCKS Jul 19, 2007

    "thats good news about the school system getting funds on a device that makes roads safer."

    You're the person my parents warned me about...

  • NoToIllegals Jul 19, 2007

    Until the public registered voters demand accountability, nothing will change in this state.

    I have written, signed petitions, and made phone calls.

    You need to do likewise. Make your voices HEARD.

    Posting here is a great vent, but it accomplished nothing.

    START speaking out and do it LOUDLY!

  • LocalYokel Jul 19, 2007

    thats good news about the school system getting funds on a device that makes roads safer. I think we should put up more of these devices. I think we need them for speeding also.

  • DeM Jul 19, 2007

    If the schools go after the towns to get 90% of fines before expenses, then the towns will be going SERIOUSLY in the red with the red-light program. The towns would just take down the cameras. Then the schools would go back to foraging for crayons without the extra 30-100K+. If they leave the equation alone, at least the school gets something year after year. If the schools get greedy now, they won't have the income stream for very long.

  • selmacac Jul 19, 2007

    NCcarguy

    You are correct. State law says that the yellow light time has to be a min. of 4 secs. There was already 1 light that was found to be about 3 secs and every ticket issued from that light had to be refunded. Also to say its about saftey is a joke since its only a fine and no points on your lic. Also some studys have found that rear end collisions increase at red light cameras.

    The truth is its all albout the buck plain and simple.

  • Mrs. Fabulous Jul 19, 2007

    Sort of off topic here, but does anyone know why they took down the camera light in Cary on Walnut St? It was the camera light right there when turning into Crossroads Plaza. Does anyone posting on WRAL know why? My husband and I noticed this a couple of weeks ago. Just curious

  • Nancy Jul 19, 2007

    "Anyone at WRAL up for some research?" Chargernut, perhaps not but if you contact Joe Neff at N&O, he seems to have a semblance of what it takes to get to the bottom of things, at least his work on the Duke fiasco gave him a good track record.

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