Cuts for court: Decreases reflected in Common Pleas budget

The proposed budget for Auglaize County Common Pleas Court is expected to decrease by more than $17,300 in 2012 with some unknowns in a few areas.
The decrease is reflected in salaries due to a retirement but the request actually accounts for a 3 percent pay raise for remaining employees in the office.
The proposed employee salaries line item at $144,225 is $14,800 less than 2011 with decreases also seen in worker’s compensation and PERS for a total proposed budget of $232,934 in 2012.
Common Pleas Judge Fred Pepple said there are a few areas that may need increased based on changes since he submitted an initial budget six months ago.
“One category we are spending a lot on and I’m afraid it’s going to get worse is contract services,” Pepple said. “We spent all of it this year.
“When I did the budget a year ago, I didn’t know about grant writers and switching pre-sentence investigations over to our department,” he said. “Those were things that didn’t exist last year but do now.”
Pepple said juror and witness fees also are always an unknown going into each year as they are dependent on cases that come before the court. Not much has been spent to pay visiting judges.
With several employees with four- and five-week vacations built up, the judge said some money may need to be built into the budget to cover those employees should a jury trail be scheduled when they are off.
“There’s no way of knowing when that will happen and there’s no elbow room at all,” Pepple said. “We will need a few thousand in case we need to cover a jury trial. We can deal a day or two but not a whole week. Whatever you would allow I would really like some cushion if I have to call in part-time people.”
In the Adult Probation Fund, which Pepple also handles, he requested $86,140, $30,680 more than in 2011.
In the fund, the salary line item was proposed to increase 59 percent to $69,000 to cover one full-time and one part-time employee. PERS and worker’s compensation also increased respectively.
Other expenses increased by $1,000 to $5,600 to cover drug testing costs which are increasing as the number of drug tests required also is on the rise.
“I’m looking at alternatives,” Pepple said.
He said now they are being tested as they arrive and then randomly after that.
Pepple said it’s a concern as less may be sent to prison and more face sanctions, or probations.
He said for six months, through November, $9,120 was raised from probationers paying supervision fees and a portion is to be returned from the state.
“It’s fair to estimate that we’ll get $18,234 next year and at least a little under $35,000 from reimbursements from state grants and probationers fees,” Pepple said.
He said the income coming into the department isn’t shown in the budget.
“We collect as much as we can for drug test fees as part of court costs,” Pepple said.