Archive for Saturday, June 30, 2001

Courts face restructuring under deficity

June 30, 2001


Three temporary court employee positions may be eliminated, he said.

"We'll do whatever we have to do to meet the reduction levels," Hamilton said.

Douglas County court employees already work about 90 minutes a day while offices are closed to the public to keep up with the workload.

After a week of meetings, Kansas Supreme Court justices Friday came up with a plan to deal with a fiscal 2002 budget nearly $2 million less than the courts said they'd need. The fiscal year begins Monday.

The plan calls for continuation of a 60-day hiring freeze for nonjudicial vacancies; a 25 percent reduction in funds to hire temporary workers; and elimination of travel for district magistrate judges and for travel to Court of Appeals hearings.

But the plan still falls short $528,753. The Supreme Court and Office of Judicial Administration will attempt to get the Kansas Legislature to approve a supplemental appropriation when it convenes next year.

"We need to first see what the results of the budget savings are," said court spokesman Ron Keefover. "Asking for a $1.9 or $2 million supplemental appropriation was just out of the question."

This past session the Legislature appropriated more than $79.63 million to state court operations for fiscal year 2002, Keefover said. But that's not enough to meet the court system's projected expenses.

The justices' plan calls for various reductions in the state's 31 judicial districts plus the appellate court.

The Douglas County District Court is already short one trial clerk and unable to fill it because of the hiring freeze, Hamilton said.

All district courts must reduce by 25 percent their allocation for temporary employees, the Supreme Courts plan says. In Douglas County that means a savings of $9,484.

In addition, district courts must come up with their own plans for further reductions. The amount of the reduction varies, based on a formula that takes into account a district's caseload. Douglas County must come up with another $10,802 in reductions.

No plan for meeting that reduction has yet been determined, Hamilton said. District courts have until July 16 to come up with their plans, he said.

Douglas County Administrative Judge Mike Malone was out of his office Friday and unavailable for comment.

Keefover said rumors of Friday employee furloughs are false and not part of the budget plan. But if a supplemental allocation is not approved next year, furloughs are possible, Judicial Administrator Howard Schwartz said in a letter to all district court judges dated Tuesday.

"Not addressing this budget deficit would mean that, without a supplemental appropriation, the judicial branch would be left with no option other than seven to 11 days of furlough in the last few months of the fiscal year," Schwartz wrote.

The deficit plan comes as no surprise to court officials, Hamilton said.

"We pretty much knew what was going to be coming," he said.

-- Staff writer Mike Belt can be reached at 832-7165.

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