Gov. DeSantis approves revenue change to cut Clerk of Court funding shortfall
The AHCA finalized 31 actions against managed care plans — to the tune of nearly $10M.

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Court, State Attorney and Public Defender budgets grew 31-39% since 2012. Clerk Office budgets only rose 1.3%.

Clerk of Court budgets are about to get an overdue boost.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation (HB 977) designed to help shore up Clerk funding shortfalls. In the last decade, Clerk Office budgets have barely budged, leading to operational woes in recent years.

Clerk Offices — there is one for each county — operate on a monthly cash basis, relying primarily on fines and fees to fund critical public services. They receive no apportionment from the state budget.

While their funding source won’t change under the new law, effective July 1, Clerk Offices will now be allowed to keep about $24.1 million more per year from what they collect rather than sending it into the state General Revenue Fund.

The measure also changes Clerks’ budgeting from monthly to quarterly, which should allow for longer-term planning.

On Friday, one day after DeSantis signed HB 977, Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers President Carolyn Timmann applauded the move.

“This legislation provides much-needed funding to support the critical services Clerks of Court provide to individuals, local businesses, and their communities,” said Timmann, who also serves as the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller in Martin County.

“We are grateful to the Governor for recognizing our challenges and supporting this important issue, so we can better serve Floridians who interact with the court system.”

Both chambers of the Legislature approved the change in April. Bonita Springs Rep. Adam Botana carried the measure in the House. St. Augustine Sen. Travis Hutson, a fellow Republican, sponsored an identical version of the bill, which he tabled.

Explaining the measure to his Senate peers, Hutson described it as a standalone item unconnected to other proposals introduced for the 2023 Legislative Session.

“(It’s) just sending the money to the Clerks that they rightfully and dutifully deserve,” he said.

Over the past decade, from fiscal year 2012 to 2022, court budgets grew 31%, State Attorneys’ budgets rose 34% and public defenders enjoyed a 39% uptick in funding, according to Polk County Clerk Stacy Butterfield. Clerks of Court, meanwhile, only had a 1.3% increase.

“Without essential funding, we can’t keep up with state, local and national wages,” she said during a Feb. 16 presentation to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Civil and Criminal Justice.

“Employee costs make up over 90% of our budgets. These staffing issues directly impact our services. They affect daily processing and access to case data and create threats to our accuracy, timing and increase the risk of errors.”

Legislation over the last two years has helped. In 2021, DeSantis signed a measure by Bradenton Republican Rep. Jim Boyd to allow Clerks to carry statewide reserves to plan for emergencies and submit funding requests for certain deficits, among other provisions. In 2022, DeSantis ratified another measure easing payment plans for court fines — a change proponents believe will increase fee and fine revenue.

But more needed to be done. This year, without the change, Clerk Offices were projected to operate with a $36.5 million funding gap between their needs-based budget and their revenue-limited one, according to the Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation, which Butterfield leads.

Clerk Offices retain only about half the money they collect from fines and fees. Roughly 46% of that revenue goes back into the state for distribution to other agencies and outside trust funds.

Timmann said HB 977 ““will provide the resources we need to support our judicial and law enforcement partners and the diverse communities we serve statewide.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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