Call to Order and Roll Call
The1st meeting of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Justice and Judiciary of the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue was held on<Day> Thursday, December 2, 2010, at 10:30 AM, in Room 169 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Jesse Crenshaw, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests:† Carol Henderson, Budget Director, Administrative Office of the Courts, Vance Mitchell, Manager of Capital Construction within the Judicial Branch and Representative Rocky Adkins.
Chairman Crenshaw thanked members and guests for attending the meeting. He then acknowledged Representative Scott Brinkmanís retirement and recognized his accomplishments and the contributions he has made to the committee and General Assembly.
Discussion of Activity of the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act Task Force and of PEW Center on the States Study
Representative John Tilley and Senator Tom Jensen updated the committee on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act Task Force.
In response to a question asked by Chairman Crenshaw, Senator Jensen stated the majority of prosecutors have been involved with the process and are in agreement with the philosophy behind the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act Task Force recommendations; however, there are some items that the Task Force is considering that they do not agree with. He believed not everyone is going to agree with every recommendation that is considered.
Representative Tilley added that he is a former prosecutor and has spoken with some of his former colleagues about the recommendations. He reiterated what Senator Jensen had previously stated. The Task Force had spoken as a panel at the prosecutorís convention and had reached out to several communities for input.† Some of the disagreements from prosecutors lie in how to achieve the overall goal. Prosecutors want more definitive sentencing of offenders.
Representative Tilley stated he would like to see improvement on recidivism rates to ensure the offenders do not reoffend.
Update on Court Facility Construction
Carol Henderson, Budget Director of Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and Vance Mitchell, Manager of Capital Construction within the Judicial Branch updated the committee on the court facility construction projects. Ms. Henderson provided the committee with a handout that included a list of the court facilities that are currently under construction, what county those facilities are in, what year the project was authorized, and the expected date of occupancy.†
In response to a question asked by Representative Yonts, Ms. Henderson stated one company received the vast majority of construction management contracts. The construction companies are hired by the local boards through a competitive process, not by the AOC.
Representative Yonts asked to what extent the financial stress on the Judicial Branch budget will be lessened because the General Assembly is no longer authorizing additional construction at this time. Ms. Henderson stated the bond payments for the 40 authorized projects are currently being paid. In FY 2012 and FY 2013, the facilities budget will increase because of the increased cost of the annualized use allowance payments.
Representative Yonts asked if the increase will slow due to the fact that no more construction projects were authorized during the last session. Ms. Henderson stated that was correct with the exception of FY 2012 and FY 2013. She stated in FY 2012 and FY 2013 the Judicial Branch will be asking for additional funds over the current appropriation because they have not been fully funded for the debt services of the previously authorized projects.
Representative Yonts asked if there was any effort from the Judicial Branch to monitor the extent to which a local government can build overly excessive buildings and ask the state to fund the construction. Ms. Henderson stated the Judicial Branch is revising the administrative procedures that govern the capital construction process and financial limits will be placed upon the construction of the facility based on the population and caseload of the county the project is in.
Representative Yonts asked how many counties have to add to their court costs to help pay for debt service because of a statute that was previously passed in the General Assembly.
Ms. Henderson stated the counties receive the money mandated by statute and the court facility fee is intended to help offset that money. Representative Yonts stated a $25 local ordinance fee has to be enacted to receive that money. Ms. Henderson stated that was correct. Representative Yonts asked if all of the counties enact the local ordinance fee.† Ms. Henderson responded the state is fully paying the debt service and operating on the buildings that are 100 percent occupied.
Representative Yonts gave an example that in Warren County, the General Assembly authorized the local government to increase court costs by $25 to offset part of the payment as rent to the local government. He asked if more counties have had to do that or if that process has been stopped. Ms. Henderson stated more counties have not had to do that; however, the problem with the statute is there is no oversight. She added that if a building needs a new roof, AOC cannot demand the county to use that money to pay for the roof because AOC does not have the oversight of that court facility fee that is collected.
Representative Yonts asked if it would be helpful for a statute to be enacted to specify what the money is to be used for. Ms. Henderson stated the statute currently states the money is dedicated for debt or operating costs. Ms. Henderson reiterated the problem is there is no oversight of that statute.
†Representative Yonts asked if she is indicating that the money is being used for other purposes in violation of the law. Ms. Henderson stated the State Auditorís office would have to determine that.
Chairman Crenshaw asked if the use allowance ends after the debt service is retired and the facility is paid for in full. Ms. Henderson stated the debt service ends after that, but according to the statute it depends when the building was built as to what percentage of rent is paid. She stated if the building was authorized prior to FY 2000, AOC either pays 8 percent rent or 4 percent rent, and 8 percent or 4 percent of the capital construction costs technically as rent to the county after the debt is retired. She further stated as of FY 2000 the statute does not specify what is paid to the county after the debt is retired.
In response to a question asked by Senator Jensen, Ms. Henderson stated since 1996 approximately 75 courthouses have been constructed.
In response to a question asked by Senator Jensen, Ms. Henderson stated there is a tremendous need for more court facilities and currently the capital construction staff is assessing the counties that have not received new facilities prior to 1996. Those counties will be ranked in order of need and presented to the Chief Justice.
In response to a question asked by Senator Jensen, Ms. Henderson indicated the new buildings will all age at approximately the same time because they are being built at approximately the same time.
Senator Jensen asked if some thought has been put into spreading the building of the facilities out over time so not all of the buildings will need repairs at approximately the same time. Ms. Henderson stated they typically start approximately 17 or 18 facilities around the same time, then 17 or 18 facilities again in the next construction cycle, instead of all of them at once. Ms. Henderson stated through the years the facilities are maintained and repairs/replacements are made if needed. Ms. Henderson stated the facilities are being built to be used for the purpose of court facilities for approximately 50 years.
Senator Jensen asked if the increase that is going to be required in the Judicial Branch budget because of rent and maintenance has been projected yet. Ms. Henderson stated there is a line item in the facilities budget titled Non-Recurring for Maintenance Issues; therefore, money has been allocated for that.
Senator Jensen asked if Ms. Henderson foresees any need for the Judiciary Branch budget to increase substantially because of the new amount of rent that will be paid. †She stated she has not analyzed the percentage increase, but has looked at the dollar amount that the budget will need to increase. She further stated the budget will increase in FY 2012 and FY 2013 as mentioned earlier. Ms. Henderson stated that determining an increase in the Judicial Branch budget for maintenance once the debt is retired will have to be done years down the road.
Representative Yonts asked if he was correct in understanding the multimillion dollar court facilities are only projected to last 50 years. Ms. Henderson stated that was correct. She stated the physical buildings will last, but the caseloads and population of the counties are expected to increase, therefore outgrowing the facility. Representative Yonts stated most of the rural counties are not growing. Ms. Henderson responded that was indeed correct and that is one cause for the revision of the administrative procedures.
Representative Yonts asked if rent paid to the counties is a factor of debt service and maintenance. Ms. Henderson stated for the projects that are 100 percent occupied by the courts, AOC pays the trustee at the bank the debt service payment; they do not pay it to the county. She also stated AOC pays operating and janitorial maintenance to the county on a quarterly basis.
Representative Yonts asked if the roof leaks on a facility or an air conditioner fails, if the money is given to the facility to make those repairs. Ms. Henderson stated the money is given to the facility as needed on a reimbursement basis.† †
Chairman Crenshaw thanked everyone for attending and adjourned the meeting at 11:30 A.M.