Plan to shift money from Seattle school safety program draws ire of community group

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SEATTLE -- Some safer sidewalks and crosswalks for Seattle students will have to wait -- that's what some school safety advocates think of shifting city money away from a school safety program to pay for other city priorities, like affordable housing.

"We could help 25 schools with that money," said Gordon Padelford with Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

The pedestrian safety advocacy group launched an online campaign opposing the money shift, but Seattle City Council gave the green light Monday to tap into the red light runner fines.

The city's newly-approved budget moves $2.7 million from the city's Safe Routes to School program into the general fund through 2020. Prior to the shift, the city allocated 80 percent of red light camera revenue to the general fund and 20 percent to school safety projects.

Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez said Monday those school safety programs will still be fully funded; she said there's enough revenue to cover the programs and more.

She said it's all because of the city's school speed zone camera program which generated more revenue than the city forecasted.

"We have more money," said Gonzalez. "We need to figure out how other priorities might be funded with the excess revenue."

The "excess revenue" triggered the city to consider and approve tapping into the Safe Routes to School red light camera revenue.

"It makes a lot of sense for us as a city council to see how we can use general fund dollars in a way that meets other safety priorities and city priorities," said Gonzalez.

100 percent of all school zone camera revenue goes to school projects.

There has been no official decision yet on where to spend the money, but council members have identified homelessness, affordable housing, and transportation as city priorities.

"The reality is we don't have enough revenue to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness," Gonzales said. "We need more general fund dollars to be able to support increase in affordable housing and shelter opportunities."

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways says it will fight to get those dollars back. It plans to launch a campaign hoping to secure money via a supplemental budget.

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