Fines increase revenue for court; overtime decreased
Revenue increases and expense reductions at the 19th Judicial District Court during the 2012 fiscal year have left state District Judge Mike Caldwell feeling “cautiously optimistic’’ about the financial future of state District Court in Baton Rouge.
Caldwell, chairman of the 19th Judicial District’s Budget and Finance Committee, said local revenues such as fees, fines and court costs were budgeted flat for the court’s 2012 fiscal year, which ends June 30, but actually rose 14 percent.
District Court fines alone increased by $140,000, noted Caldwell, who said he hopes for a repeat performance during the 2013 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
“We’re hoping our revenues will continue to increase,’’ he said.
Caldwell said the current fiscal year also saw compensatory time payments to district employees fall by about $61,000.
“We’ve cut down a lot on overtime and compensatory time,’’ he said. “We’ve reined it in considerably.’’
Caldwell said the 2012 fiscal year also saw revenue increase at the district’s drug lab, where court-ordered drug tests are performed.
“That has helped out,’’ he said.
Caldwell commended district finance director Derek Ransome and Judicial Administrator Ann McCrory for “keeping us afloat’’ during challenging economic times.
“We’ve had to tighten our belts the last several years,’’ the judge said.
“I feel comfortable where we are now,’’ Ransome added. “We have to continue to be diligent to protect our money and the public’s money.’’
“Perhaps cautiously optimistic, but not overly optimistic,’’ Caldwell said of his own level of comfort about the district’s fiscal future.
The 19th Judicial District, which covers East Baton Rouge Parish, relies heavily on the city-parish to fund the court’s operations. The court also has its own separate Judicial Expense Fund, which is self-generating revenue from court costs, fines and fees. The court also gets money from the Louisiana Supreme Court.
A public hearing on a proposed fiscal 2013 budget for the district’s Judicial Expense Fund is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday in Suite 3606 of the 19th Judicial District Courthouse at 300 North Blvd.
The 15 judges of the district are expected to vote on the proposed budget Wednesday.
The proposed budget shows the court’s Judicial Expense Fund beginning the 2013 fiscal year with a balance of more than $2,143,000 and ending the fiscal year next June with more than $2,253,000.
The proposed budget projects revenues of nearly $3.1 million and expenditures of more than $2.9 million.
Caldwell, however, noted that the judges are expected to approve an increase in the pay scale for some entry-level positions, such as docket clerks, traffic clerks and clerks in the bail bond office.
“That will definitely eat up that (projected) surplus for the coming year,’’ he said, adding that the pay hike is warranted.
The 19th Judicial District Court employs about 130 people, excluding the 15 district judges and two commissioners, Ransome said. The state Supreme Court pays the salaries of the judges and commissioners.
The city-parish, which operates on a calendar-year budget, provided the 19th Judicial District with $6.8 million for 2012.
“The city-parish’s improved financial position has helped us,’’ Caldwell said.
Ransome said the court will make its 2013 funding request to the city-parish in October.