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Senate budget chief slashes county clerks’ by $23 million

by Dara Kam | March 26th, 2010

After chopping $46 million from county clerks’ funding last year, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander diced another $23 million from the clerks’ budgets in a last-minute amendment late yesterday.

Sixty-five of the state’s 67 clerks would see budget decreases from 1 to 10 percent, including Palm Beach which faces a $2.6 million, or 8 percent, reduction under Alexander’s proposal. That could mean doing away with about 100 jobs.

Fred Baggett, a lobbyist who represents the clerks, said he and a few of the county officers met with Alexander on Tuesday, two days before the Ways and Means Committee meeting at which he made his proposal. But they had no idea the drastic change was coming, Baggett said.

Smaller counties “cannot function at this level,” Baggett said.

Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee Chairman Victor Crist said he refused to cut the clerks in his budget because they were hit so hard last year and he was concerned about keeping access to courts open.

Alexander came up with unit costs for 10 types of court cases by dividing the county clerks into four groups based on population size and using the mean cost of the case types. The mean cost came from the clerks’ own reports of how much they spend.

But Crist said the data is inconclusive because it has been less than six months since a new last passed last year basing the clerks’ funding on per-unit costs has gone into effect.

“It’s no different than trying to measure your weight with one foot on the scale,” said Crist, R-Tampa, who voted against the amendment yesterday. “What if we’re wrong? It could mean restricted access to the courts.”

Alexander said he will “take a look at it” over the five weeks remaining in the legislative session.

“We take it that their data when they give it to us is accurate and correct and have worked some months to make sure we get it right. But through the process we’ll take a look at it and if we think we need to make adjustments we’ve got five weeks to figure that out,” Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said.

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7 Responses to “Senate budget chief slashes county clerks’ by $23 million”

  1. jay Says:

    Keep the cuts coming!
    The counties (and cities and towns) need to dial back the spending.

  2. Ken Says:

    These cuts are irresponsible. When the Clerks can’t function anymore and the courts shut down, who is going to collect the money for the state of florida to spend on their pet projects? why do legislators decide the budget of the judicial system anyway?

  3. Tweets that mention Senate budget chief slashes county clerks’ by $23 million | Post on Politics -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SayfieReview.com, Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach Post said: Court Clerk in PBC (@ClerkPBC) facing 8 percent budget cut http://bit.ly/b26Fhd [...]

  4. Ashley Says:

    Jay may be celebrating, but the 100 people who will now be unemployed will not be. This is very sad indeed.

  5. whasup Says:

    I suppose Baggett and his law firm, who has a sweet deal lobbying for the clerks as well as lobbying for some powerful monied interets, could just write a $23 million check to make up the difference.

    So if this cut is so drastic and the circumstances so dire, why doesn’t Baggett man up?

    Remember, these were the same clerks who for decades kept their budget off the state books, under a shroud of secrecy, and hidden from the people–and then fought tooth and nail, hammer and tong against trasparency.

  6. clerk Says:

    hey Jay & Whasup! Do you have a job for me when the cuts happen? What about all the other clerks who are the sole bread winners for their families? Unemployment at 12.2% is highest in Florida since the recession of the 70′s, lets cut some more jobs and raise that number higher huh!

  7. Carole fields Says:

    sounds to me like the Good Ole Boy J.D, wants to cripple our state..He must have some ulterior motives for all his shenanagans. He passes things without much thought regarding the people he is supposed to represent and the good of our state. I think he is representing greed and selfinterest.

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