Friday, March 12, 2010

Delaying Judgeships and Costs

Board of Commissioners - 3-9-10

This week, we had a full County Board of Commissioners meeting where we had to decide if we wanted to ask the Legislature to delay the filling of a judgeship or not.

Why would we do that?

Well, anyone following Ingham County government (or most any elected board) knows that Ingham County government is hurting for dollars to provide the expected services. You want road patrol? Or health services? Or parks? Or Animal Control? Well...we need to have the dollars to fund them.

One of the creative solutions that was suggested was to not fill a judgeship for 2 years. Due to age limitations, Judge Giddings cannot run again. So we thought we might try to hold that seat open for 2 years. The state pays the judge salary, but we could reduce the support staff and the savings were estimated at about $300,000.

In the Finance Committee last week, we had a good discussion about this with Chief Judge Collette. As expected, he opposes this move. He raised lots of good points. He said this would create a backlog of cases; this would limit access to justice; this would compound the potential closure of the jail post. These were all good arguments, but we are cutting everywhere and we told him that the Judiciary needs to be included in that.

Fortunately, Judge Collette said that he is willing to entertain cuts. He will look at the Judiciary and see where they can provide savings to the county. That was great to hear. We don't want to cut the courts, but neither do we want to cut the sheriff or the prosecutor or animal control or parks.

In the end, we agreed to not move the resolution calling for the moratorium on filling the judgeship and Chief Judge Collette committed to providing budget reductions for the Circuit Court. I think everyone won on this and it will help as we start to look at reductions.

In other Board action, we approved several other resolutions including one moving forward the consolidation of the county 911 to one center. We are hopeful that this will lead to cost savings down the road. That resolution passed unanimously.

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