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$3M deficit hampering Palm Beach Co. courts

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Posted at 8:13 PM, Sep 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-29 20:13:57-04

A deficit in the clerk and comptroller's budget, will continue to impact the citizens of Palm Beach County.
Clerk Sharon Bock said she fears that impact will only get worse.

Candice is at the court house to pay a ticket.

"I'll try to come over on a lunch break or will have to take a half a day off because it takes a while," she said.

Today, her wait time wasn't that long, but usually she said, "In the past, it's been up to an hour."

A longer wait time that could become the new normal.  Palm Beach County Clerk's Office continues to deal with a nearly 3 million dollar deficit.

"It's getting worse, it's not getting any better," said Sharon Bock, county clerk and comptroller.

She told reporters today, everyone is affected, from her staff.

"We aren't able to keep up with the pace of the information that's coming in because we don't have enough people," she said.

To the taxpayer,  that means longer wait times to pay tickets, get marriage licenses and file lawsuits.
And cases that need to be manually put in the system, are backed up by days.

Cindy Guerra , chief operating officer said,"There's a delay in cases, judges will be on the bench and they have a hearing and unfortunately we have not been able to docket all the paper work to that case."

Since July, dozens of full time and part-time positions have been eliminated. North and south county court houses will remain closed on Fridays.

New technology projects, are on the back burner for now.

"You're looking at an office who distributes 280 million dollars and ask back for 30 million for their citizens. I think it is something that we have to take very seriously in Palm Beach County and ask the state legislature why it is that we can't be funded for our citizens."

The clerk says she's not planning on anymore layoffs if she can avoid it. She's working with other programs in the court system to help generate revenue.

 

Here are some of the problems because of the budget issues:

  • There is a serious docketing back log
  • There's an estimated eight business-day turnaround time for circuit civil documents
  • There is a four-day wait for county civil documents.
  • There's more than 16,000 documents still waiting to be put on the docket
  • More than 200 cases are waiting to be opened

Since July, the clerk’s office eliminated 41 full-time positions and 16 part-time jobs.

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