To the editor: Curfew fines must go to schools

In the 12-7-06 local paper, the Curfew Committee was reported as discussing that offenders will pay fines for violations.

When asked what the money from the fines would be used for, “City Manager Jerry Moss said it would go to the city. But Moss said it hadn’t been decided how the fine money would be spent.”

Our “fine” Council frequently tosses out suggestions for financial penalties like candy at a parade. Apparently, they believe that every little bit of fine money will help the cash-strapped City budget. The City Manager and Council are wrong.

Recently, the N.C. Court of Appeals has ruled that the city of High Point must turn over 90 percent of its red-light camera proceeds (civil fines) to its local school system. Although the decision was in a case involving High Point, it sets a statewide precedent.

North Carolina’s Constitution mandates that “clear proceeds” of all civil penalties and fines are to go to the schools. The legislature later defined “clear proceeds” as 90 percent of all the money collected. (High Point officials argued the 90% figure was unrealistic, without success.) This ruling will apply to all “civil fine” red light camera projects in NC, as well as ALL other municipal fines invented by various Councils to generate revenue.

The ordinance can STILL require fines, mind you. It’s just that the money collected (if any is ever really collected) will go to our local school system, which may not be such a bad thing.

Mr. Moss and the Council should have researched their “fine” philosophy a little more thoroughly. Unfortunately, our Council and Manager in their zeal to move hastily tend to speak first and think later.

Kram Niawt