Rep. Webster Barnaby has filed legislation to address court clerks’ long-standing budget issues that are magnified by declining funding from fines, fees and court costs.
“Florida’s Clerks of Court provide many necessary and essential services to our state,” Barnaby said. “I’m excited to move forward with this legislation that proposes commonsense, practical solutions for longstanding issues that have been present for our great Clerks across the state.”
Unlike many government entities, Clerks’ offices operate on a cash basis month-to-month, depending on fines, fees and court costs to fund critical public services. There are many services and activities that have no associated fees or revenue, such as domestic violence injunctions and indigency cases.
As Florida’s population has grown, funding for Clerks’ offices has decreased sharply due to instability of revenue generated in the fines-and-fees-based system. Additionally, Clerks are not funded in the General Appropriations Act and cannot carry statewide reserves to help with emergencies.
COVID-19 further exposed the flawed funding system, with Clerks’ offices across the state facing severe budget reductions from July 2020 to September 2020 that averaged nearly 50%.
“Clerks of Court and Comptrollers make up a large, essential piece of our court system, and throughout the pandemic they remained vigilant to ensure their services were available to residents,” Boyd said. “I am proud to sponsor the Clerks of the Circuit Court bill this Session. I look forward to working with Representative Barnaby to help these public officers begin improving a funding system that was negatively impacted by COVID-19.”
The bills allows Clerks to carry statewide reserves to plan for emergencies, to submit funding requests for certain deficits and other provisions.
Barnaby and Boyd’s legislation makes up part of Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers’ 2021 legislative priorities. The group praised their proposals this week.
“Florida’s Clerks of Court and Comptrollers continue to face an unsustainable funding system that has resulted in statewide budgets lower than the budget from 15 years ago,” said FCCC President Tara S. Green, the Clay County Clerk of Court and Comptroller. “To stabilize and improve this system and ensure the services we provide are accessible to Floridians, we developed thoughtful legislation, and look forward to working with the Legislature on these solutions.”