The county courts came under some scrutiny at the County Board of Supervisors budget work session June 10. La Paz County District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor had some questions for Clerk of the Superior Court Megan Spielman regarding an increase in the budget for Court Administration, which mostly covers the fees for outside appointed attorneys. Superior Court Judge Jessica Quickle offered some answers.
The FY 2019-20 budget for Court Administration was $800,000, but their expenditures were $886,000. For FY 2020-21, the proposed budget is $1.017 million, an increase of $217,000.
“We’ve been beefing up the Public Defender’s office,” Minor said. “Shouldn’t we see that number for outside attorneys go down?”
Quickle, who was attending the work session by telephone, said she could answer that. She said that, in cases with multiple defendants, the Public Defender’s office cannot represent more than one defendant. She said that was why they need money for outside appointed attorneys.
Outside appointed attorneys are often called “conflict attorneys.”
“When we hire outside attorneys, are there any restraints?” Minor asked.
Quickle replied that there are.
“We pay a fee of $100 per hour,” she said. “We don’t pay for travel time or their staff.”
Quickle said the county had paid $75 per hour, but that her predecessor, Judge Matthew Newman, had increased that to $100 per hour.
Questions were also asked about the budget for the Salome Justice Court, JP 5. The budget for FY ‘19-20 was $631,000, but their actual expenditures were $379,000. Their budget for FY ’20-21 is $334,000, a decrease of $297,000. This includes a decline of $13,000 for personnel and $284,000 for operations.
When asked about the decline, County Finance Director Terry Krukemyer said the cost of the court’s new building was included in the FY ’19-20 budget.
The budget for the Clerk of the Superior Court’s office for FY 2020-21 is $554,000, an increase of $14,000 from the $540,000 budget for FY ‘19-20. It includes $22,000 more for personnel and $7,300 less for operations. Actual expenditures for FY ’19-20 were $536,000.
As for the Superior Court itself, the proposed FY 2020-21 budget is $260,000, which is a $51,000 increase over FY 2019-20’s budget of $209,000. It includes a $49,000 increase in personnel and a $1,750 increase in operations.
The proposed budget for the County Attorney’s office sees an increase of $26,000 to $1.076 million for FY 2020-21. Their budget for FY 2019-20 was $1.049 million with actual expenditures of $968,000. The proposed budget includes $87,000 less for personnel and $35,000 more for operations.
The budget for the Public Defender’s Office is proposed at $615,000, and increase of $18,000 over the FY 2019-20 amount of $597,000. Their actual expenditures were $583,000. The proposed increase includes $20,000 more for personnel and $2,000 less for operations.
The Probation Department is broken into Adult and Juvenile divisions. Adult Probation’s proposed budget for FY 2020-21 is $124,000, a $9,000 decrease from FY 2019-20’s budget of $133,000. The proposal includes $10,000 less for personnel. Their actual expenditures for the current fiscal year were $126,000.
For Juvenile Probation, the proposed budget for FY 2020-21 is $150,000, a slight decrease of $2,000. Their actual expenses were $148,000.
The proposed budget for the Quartzsite Justice Court, JP 5, is $634,000, an increase of $62,000 over the current fiscal year amount of $572,000. The proposal includes $45,000 more for personnel and $17,000 more for operations. Their expenses for FY 2019-20 were $568,000.
The Parker Justice Court, JP 6, has a proposed budget of $370,000, which is $16,000 less that FY 2019-20’s amount of $386,000. The declines include $12,000 less for personnel and $5,000 less for operations. The actual amount the court spent in the current fiscal year is $385,000.