Kentucky Court of Justice
Chief Justice Minton announces Judicial Branch Reduction Plan for FY 11
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. met today with the state’s justices, judges and circuit court clerks to announce a budget reduction plan that will ensure the Judicial Branch can balance its budget in Fiscal Year 11 (July 1, 2010-June 30, 2011).
The chief justice invited the elected officials to meet at the Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort. Immediately following the meeting, Chief Justice Minton sent an e-mail announcing the reduction plan to all elected and non-elected court personnel statewide.
“The Judicial Branch is fortunate to have an enacted budget,” Chief Justice Minton said. “We’re relieved to know what our appropriation will be after several months of speculation.
“If we are to balance our budget, we must make widespread reductions to court operations. These reductions will affect all four levels of the court system, the Office of Circuit Court Clerk and the AOC.”
The estimated deficit for the Judicial Branch Court Operations and Local Facilities Fund for FY 11 is $33.3 million, which is the difference between the budget appropriation and the cost to operate the courts. A one-time carry-forward of $26.5 million will help offset the $33.3 million deficit, which leaves a shortfall of $6.8 million for FY 11.
“It’s important to note that the FY 11 deficit would have been more crippling had we not begun aggressively cutting costs as early as 2008,” Chief Justice Minton said. “We’ve reorganized departments, implemented a hiring freeze, reduced operating costs, abolished positions and some judicial center projects were not completed as quickly as projected.”
The actions detailed below will be taken to offset the $6.8 million deficit for FY 11. These measures will save $6.7 million and eliminate 113 positions, which is 3.4 percent of the Judicial Branch’s non-elected workforce. All actions will be effective July 1, 2010, unless otherwise noted:
Reduce the Supreme Court budget by $140,500 (3 percent).
Court of Appeals
Reduce the Court of Appeals budget by $226,400 (3 percent).
Abolish all seven court reporter positions for a savings of $400,300.
Reduce 18 Family Court programs from four staff positions to three for a savings of $706,700, effective July 1, 2010. In addition, the Supreme Court has determined that the Family Court complement should be comprised of a judicial secretary, a case specialist and law clerk. Over the next few months, the AOC will work with each Family Court judge to make the needed reclassifications.
Decertify trial commissioners who are not constitutionally required for a savings of $198,900.
Office of Circuit Court Clerk
• Suspend the overtime program for all deputy clerks for a savings of $2 million.
• Discontinue the deputy clerk career ladder in FY 12 for a savings of $200,000.
Family and Juvenile Drug Courts
Abolish Family and Juvenile Drug Courts, effective Jan. 1, 2011, for an annualized savings of $1.5 million.
Further reduce operations at the AOC for a savings of $2 million, effective June 1, 2010.
Discontinue accepting new students into KLEO, the Kentucky Legal Education Opportunity program, for a savings of $100,000.
Suspend all educational colleges and conferences for FY 11 and FY 12 for a savings of $160,000.
Even with these measures, the Judicial Branch budget will still be short $1.1 million for Fiscal Year 11 based on the estimated leave payouts and unemployment benefits to be paid for the affected employees. The Judicial Branch plans to make up that $1.1 million by continuing the hiring freeze, with exceptions considered through the process currently in place.
The Judicial Branch budget makes no provision for annual raises for the biennium.
“These were not quick or easy decisions,” Chief Justice Minton said. “They were made with a great deal of care and concern for the individuals who will be affected. And this plan is not a statement about one program or one person being more valuable than another. What the plan does, at this point, is allow us to avoid the worst-case scenario of mass layoffs, mass furloughs and closing courthouse doors. That is no small accomplishment.”
Following these reductions, Chief Justice Minton said the Judicial Branch anticipates a deficit of $10.6 million in FY 12. That shortfall will be addressed in the coming months.
The chief justice of the Supreme Court of Kentucky is the administrative head of the state’s court system and is responsible for its operation. The Administrative Office of the Courts is the operational arm of the court system. The AOC supports the activities of 3,700 Kentucky Court of Justice employees, including the elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks, and executes the Judicial Branch budget.