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Wilmington Owes Schools for Red Light Cameras

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The state Supreme Court has green lighted sending red light camera fines to schools.

By Megan V. Williams

Wilmington, NC – Wilmington's red light runners will help fund New Hanover County Schools, after a recent ruling by North Carolina's state Supreme Court.

The court ruling requires North Carolina cities to turn over 90% of all fines levied by red light cameras to their local school districts, based on a clause in the state constitution.

An agreement between Wilmington and New Hanover County schools makes payments retroactive to the last five years, meaning the city owes potentially millions of dollars. On Monday, city staffers were still looking into exactly how much.

The city has kept some proceeds from its red light cameras in reserve, waiting for a ruling on the program. But City Attorney Tom Pollard says those funds won't cover the debt.

"The city had recognized this as a potential liability," Pollard said, "and I believe... the council was apprized that it might require the use of some fund balance in order to pay the settlement."

Pollard says the city will lose money if it continues to operate the cameras.

"It's a determination the council will need to make as to the importance of the program in moving forward, because the city will be required to pick up the funding for at least part of operation of the program," Pollard said.

Pollard said the council could probably cancel the program without too much trouble.