A temporary emergency surcharge on those convicted of crimes or infractions to help fund Idaho's court system through the economic downturn hasn't brought in as much as anticipated, Idaho Court Administrator Patti Tobias told JFAC this morning, and the surcharge will expire on June 30, 2013. “We have been coping with both a permanent budget reduction of over $700,000 and a significant gap between projected revenues and actual revenues from the emergency surcharge,” she told lawmakers. In fiscal year 2011, the shortfall was $1.1 million; this year, it's likely to be about $500,000.
“As you set future budgets, please consider the emergency surcharge sunset date of June 30, 2013,” Tobias told JFAC. “Working together, we can pursue a strategy to either remove the sunset provision or replace the needed funds.”
In the meantime, the courts have held open four magistrate judge positions and deferred requests for nine new judgeships, instead filling in with part-time senior judges. Fifteen court staff positions also remain vacant across the state. “Despite these workforce challenges, we have redoubled our efforts to eliminate any court delay so that we can provide fair and timely access to justice,” Tobias said. Among the steps taken: Judges are working more nights and weekends. “We have cut back on everything imaginable,” she said.
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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