Berrien County Courts reduces budget to below 2010 levelPublished 8:10pm Thursday, August 18, 2011
ST. JOSEPH — With Berrien County facing an estimated $1.5 million shortfall for next year’s budget, County Administrator Bill Wolf has asked all departments to reduce 2012 non-salary related expenditures to their 2010 level.
The Berrien County Courts department certainly answered the call, actually lowering its general operating funds budget by $186,1444 from the 2010 level in its first-draft budget. The special operating funds budget also was reduced by $245,189.
Judge Al Butzbaugh presented his department’s proposed budget to the Berrien County Board’s administration committee Thursday.
Butzbaugh said a big reason why the trial court was able to reduce its budget so greatly is it is done paying user fees to support the state’s Next Generation Justice Information System, a new trial court case management system, for which Berrien County is serving as a pilot site. For the past four years the trial court paid about $300,000 a year in order to have a significant role in designing the system.
Butzbaugh said the courts have been proactive in reducing expenditures by not filling positions immediately when they become vacant. Between 2008 and 2010, the courts eliminated 18 positions through attrition for a savings of $929,000.
“We didn’t have to terminate a single employee,” Butzbaugh said. “We’re trying to be prudent.”
Revenue for Berrien County courts is down about $470,000, mostly due to a decrease in traffic tickets, Butzbaugh said.
“We don’t have as many officers out on the streets,” he said.
The county commissioners were pleased with the courts’ efforts to reduce their budget.
“You deserve a plaque,” commissioner Marletta Seats told Butzbaugh. “Nobody gives money back to the county.”
As far as the overall county budget is concerned, Wolf told commissioners Thursday that the process is going “very smooth.”
“We are ahead of where we were last year,” Wolf said.
He said most county departments have done a “good job” of staying at 2010 budget expenditure levels.