April 23, 2014

Elyria
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County judges order budget hikes

ELYRIA — The county’s Domestic Relations and General Division judges have ordered their 2013 budgets.

The Domestic Relations Court, which also includes the Juvenile Division, ordered the Lorain County commissioners to provide a budget of $6,805,525 next year.

Domestic Relations Court Administrator Doug Messer said the court order requires the commissioners to give the court around $280,000 more than they received for this year.

He said that additional money comes from a decision by the judges to fund the county’s Turning Point facility at a cost of $299,180. That is partially offset by reductions elsewhere in the budget, Messer said.

Turning Point is used by Lorain County Children Services to provide a place for teens to stay when their relatives are unable to help. Messer said other groups were able to fund the facility this year, but won’t be able to do so again and the judges feel Turning Point is too important to close.

The court order from the General Division, which handles criminal and civil cases, requires the commissioners to provide $2,545,997.

General Division Court Administrator Tim Lubbe said the judges are asking for $6,780 more than they asked for last year, when they also put on a court order. That increase is necessary to accommodate efforts to switch over to an electronic court management system that is expected to cut costs by allowing court filings to be done online, he said.

Commissioner Lori Kokoski said she was disappointed to hear about the court orders, which were both filed late this week.

“There’s not a whole lot we can do about it,” she said.

The county’s judges have ordered their budgets in recent years as the county has grappled with budget cuts, allowing the courts to be insulated from cutbacks that have impacted other departments. The judges have pointed out that they’ve reduced their budgets in recent years even though they weren’t required to do so.

Lubbe said the court orders are the proper way for the judges to get the money they need to run the courts.

“The court speaks through its orders and our order is simply the reasonable and necessary funds required to fund the court,” he said.

Kokoski said she would have preferred for the judges to wait until after the commissioners had completed budget hearings and had a better overall view of what the county’s finances will look like next year. Both Lubbe and Messer have already had budget hearings for their respective courts.

County Probate Judge James Walther, who has previously ordered his budget, said he has not had a budget hearing yet and doesn’t know if he’ll put on a court order for his 2013 budget.

He said he wouldn’t do so until he meets with the commissioners, although he added that his 2013 budget request is $486,850, which is $500 less than he received in 2012.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.