The Morgan City Council unveiled its 2011 budget in council meeting on Tuesday and it contained plans to eliminate the city Justice Court. The city has had preliminary discussions with the county for them to provide this function.
The review of the court began as a part of the work the city council undertook to reduce the city’s spending when revenues decreased over the past few years. The city had been drawing down its reserves as the economy declined and had nearly reached the minimum reserves allowed. The city took action and reduced expenditures early this year.
During the review process the Justice Court came under scrutiny. The annual cost of operating the court is nearly $40,000 and the fines collected were just under that amount for the fiscal 2009-2010 year.
The county already operates a similar court for the rest of the county and the additional expense to add the case load from the city is likely less than the city’s current cost. “Judge London is planning to go on a mission and so it was a good time to reevaluate,” stated city councilmember Shelly Betz.
For city residents the only real change would be the judge that hears their cases and the location where they pay their fines. The Sheriff’s department already issues citations in the city.
The decision has not yet been made and the city is continuing negotiations with the county, but given that the revenue and costs for the court have been eliminated from the city’s budget it seems that the city is planning for this transition. The decision will need to be made before the city finalizes its budget on June 14.