Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Chief Justice made a presentation to the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon seeking either a supplemental appropriation of $2 million OR the ability to spread this shortfall out over two fiscal years. The letter reprinted below was given to the committee. It explains the problem and the limitations that the court faces in making even greater changes.

TO: Martha Heath, Chair of House Committee on Appropriations
         Members of House Committee on Appropriations
FROM:  Robert Greemore, CourtAdministrator 
DATE:    January 3, 2013
RE:           FY 2013 Budget Adjustment Request
The Judiciary finished FY 2012 unable to pay about $2 million in obligations. This coupled with an ongoing operational deficit of about $500,000 would leave the Judiciary about $2.5 million short of paying obligations in FY 2013.
The principal reason for the inability to meet all obligations is the fact that the Judiciary did not realize enough employee turnovers to meet the vacancy savings target for FY 2012 by almost $1.5 million.  Also exacerbating the problem was the increase in security costs of $420,000 (more judge bench time contributed to this increase), increased demand for reimbursement of expenses for Guardians ad Litem by $25,000 (a 40% increase in CHINS filings contributed to this increase), increased unemployment compensation costs by $40,000, increased cost in labor negotiations by $25,000 and increased costs in serving papers in relief from abuse and other domestic issues by $12,000.  The vacancy savings rate contained in the FY 2012 budget was set using historical trend levels. This level was not attained probably due to the acceleration of employee turnovers caused by the retirement incentives offered during the restructuring efforts in previous years.
During our restructuring efforts, we reduced the number of employees working in the Judiciary by over 10%. Part of the justification for the size of reduction was the plan to have begun the implementation of case management technology during 2013.  This implementation was not realized.  We are still providing services to litigants in a paper dominated world with 40 fewer employees than we had to accomplish the same work.

As we looked for options to mitigate the problem, we had to eliminate most of the traditional methods to reduce spending.


          Could not increase the number of furlough days since we had reached the maximum days authorized by statute.

          The time to make monetary request of the Legislature had elapsed.

          Layoffs would not have generated the money needed and the number of layoffs that would be needed would approach one third of all existing positions.

Other possible methods to control cost in the Judiciary had been rejected in the restructuring effort such as:

          Closing courts.

          Changing venue requirements.

          Reducing the number of probate judges.


As a result of this analysis, there was no place to reduce spending within the timeframe of FY 2012. We began a hiring freeze reviewing every vacancy before approving a recruitment, but savings from this action will mostly be realized in 2013.

The Supreme Court is reducing spending in FY 2013 to help mitigate the spending issues. The Court has approved spending reductions of about $soo,ooo in FY 2013 which will lead to about $8oo,ooo in FY 2014. The Court has under consideration other actions depending upon budget decisions made during the upcoming Legislative session, but each will reduce staffing, curtailing further the delivery of services to Vermonters.

The Court is requesting $2 million to be included in the FY 2013 Budget Adjustment Act or the ability to manage the budget issue over 2 to 3 fiscal years.  Ifthe latter, then the Court would like the assistance of the Administration and the Legislature to add $1 million in FY2013 budget adjustment and another $1 million over the target in FY2014 budget. This would allow the Judiciary to mitigate the budget issue from FY2012 and use the spending reductions to curb ongoing spending demands to meet budget targets in the future.


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