Why I started focusing on the financial crisis in Carroll County, I don’t know. But, it’s like a car wreck, and I can’t turn away. The Journal & Courier has a new article indicating that the Carroll County judges are indicating a refusal to abide by the County Council’s budget cuts unless the state Supreme Court relieves them of constitutionally mandated cases and services.
County commissioners approved two funding requests by the county council that could bring the 2008 budget below the $5 million state-mandated level. The slashing of $1.8 million was achieved through deep reductions in emergency services and reallocation of funds.
But Superior and Circuit Court judges have issued a letter refusing $90,000 of the cuts unless the council can persuade the state Supreme Court to relieve them of constitutionally mandated cases and services.
“It would become impossible for us to do the job of the court if our staff is reduced,” Superior Court Judge Jeffrey R. Smith said, who added his court staffing has not increased since 1975.
Smith declined to speculate if the council would challenge its stance.
County Courts are in a different position than other areas of county government. Though the Council has the authority and duty to make funding decisions for the courts, judges have the authority to mandate funds from the county. The County Sheriff, for example, can’t issue a legally enforceable mandate if the funding for his department gets slashed below a level necessary to carry out the duties imposed on him by state law.