Florida Clerks have a significant budget deficit of $22.4 million for the current fiscal year ending September 30. Due to the budget shortfall, which the Florida Legislature failed to remedy, each Clerk’s budget statewide has been cut.
For my office's court-side budget, this means a cut of $2.6 million, all to be implemented in the last quarter of this fiscal year. Unfortunately, there appears to be no relief in the next fiscal year’s budget, and without legislative intervention we will likely have to institute deeper cuts.
This budget reduction will have a major impact on our ability to satisfy statutory mandates and serve our customers. My office has taken the following immediate actions to accommodate this year’s shortfall:
• Rescinded all pending job offers;
• Frozen all future hiring in Court Operations;
• Eliminated overtime pay;
• Eliminated 41 full-time and 16 part-time positions from court-side operations;
• Delayed the implementation of technology projects including online remote viewing of court records (AOSC 15-18);
• Announced the closing of the Delray Beach and Palm Beach Gardens branch
offices to the public every other Friday from July 10 through September 30.
This budget shortfall was not caused by an increase in expenditures by my office. We have consistently reduced our costs over the past five years and still seamlessly delivered outstanding service to the community. The problem is a statewide issue with the way Clerks are funded.
The state Legislature is taking the money that Palm Beach County citizens pay for filing fees, traffic tickets, and more, and spending that money elsewhere. Our office only keeps 15 percent of the money we collect. That must change or the wheels of justice will stop turning. Backlogs will increase, locations will close to the public and access to the courts will be delayed.
I encourage you to contact your local legislators and ask them to properly fund the Clerks. For more information on our budget shortfall and its impact on customer services, please see Budget News.
As always, I appreciate your support.
Sharon R. Bock, Esq.
Clerk & Comptroller, Palm Beach County
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