Proration hits state agencies

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, March 21, 2012

With proation of just more than 10 percent looming in the General Fund, some state agencies are scambling for ideas on how to keep employees working and office doors open — including the Escambia County Circuit Clerk’s office.
Circuit Clerk Kenneth Taylor said his office has already taken some hits with budgeting and he is uncertain how the latest proration announcement will affect his office.
“Right now we are status quo,” Taylor said. “We are waiting on the chief justice to submit a plan on how to handle these latest cuts.”
This round of budget cuts will put a hardship on an already burdened office of the courts, Taylor said.
“We’re right on the edge right now,” Taylor said. “I just don’t see how we can take any more personnel cuts and continue to operate.”
Taylor said local funding has been a blessing that has allowed his office to maintain staff and keep operations going.
“We have been fortunate with some local funding for our office,” Taylor said. “But that funding is unstable, and it’s not a good way to do business.”
Previous cuts in the office have been made, and Taylor said taking more cuts would just deepen the wounds.
“We went through similar cuts four years ago and had to make some big changes,” Taylor said. “With those cuts coming again, it’s going to cause a big backlog on work. You can’t prepare transcripts, you can’t process sentencing order, and you can’t get inmates out of the jail. Basically, you’re looking at a delay of the whole criminal justice system and that would create a big backlog at the jail.”
That backlog is something Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith isn’t looking forward to facing.
“All of these cuts will put us under a tremendous burden,” Smith said. “But, it’s just something we will have to work with and work through. Hopefully, things will work out but we will have to wait until we get there to know what to do.”
Smith said he is amazed at Taylor’s ability to keep the circuit clerk’s office running as well as it has based on cuts already made for the office.
“I don’t know how he’s kept the office operating with the budget he has to work with,” Smiths aid. “Some of his funding comes for the local level and that has helped. If he operated his office just on what the state gave him, he would only be open one day a week. He works long hours to get the people’s work done. I’m sure we’ll find a way to make this work. We’ll just have to wait and see what kind of personnel situation he winds up with and find a solution.”
Bentley announced the 10.6 percent proration for the state’s General Fund Friday, forcing $188 million in non-education spending cuts for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The cuts, he said, were aimed at balancing a struggling budget.
Although many agencies across the states will see a cut in funding, the state’s courts will only see a 10 percent reduction in funding, since they are constitutionally protected. Bentley also announced the Alabama Department of Corrections would not experience any budget cuts, and on Tuesday a House committee voted in favor of restoring the part of the Corrections budget that would have been cut by proration.
The cuts planned through the proration process are expected to impact Medicaid, agencies over mental health and public health as well as other state boards and agencies.

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