Proposed state budget cuts could hit Palm Beach County hard

Divorces, evictions could take longer

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Filing an eviction or a foreclosure, getting a divorce or requesting a public record in Palm Beach County could take longer because of proposed state budget cuts, Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller Sharon Bock said.

State lawmakers have proposed a seven percent cut for all Clerk & Comptroller offices and in Palm Beach County, Bock said, that would require her to cut $2.5 million from her budget.

"They either don't understand how the judicial system works or they're callus and don't really think about the lives that they're going to be affecting every single day with this cut to the Clerk's Office," she said.

Bock said she has had to reduce her workforce by twenty-five percent since 2009 because of earlier budget cuts.

"We are looking at the front end of all of the judiciary being in a back log or in a logjam," she said. "That will slow down the entire judicial process."

The biggest toll, Bock said, would be on motorists.

She said she would have to close the Royal Palm Beach branch of the Clerk & Comptroller's Office as a cost-cutting measure, leaving motorists to travel to Belle Glade or West Palm Beach to pay a traffic citation.

Those who paid on time, she said, would be at risk of a suspended license because her office would not be able to process a payment in its computer system in the time frame required.

"We are already working six, seven days a week to try to keep up with the work," said Diane McCarthy, a manager at the Clerk & Comptroller's Office. "It's critical. This is devastating."

Terri Marlen, a 30-year veteran of the Clerk & Comptroller's Office, said she worried about the consequences of the proposed cuts.

"Never in the history of the Clerk's office -- 100 years -- did we ever have layoffs," she said. "Every time it happens, it's scary."

Bock and others have appealed to state lawmakers for a reprieve and have urged the public to convince the governor to spare the budgets of the state's Clerk & Comptroller offices.

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