COURT RESPONDS TO BUDGET CRUNCH
The Superior Court in San Joaquin County is implementing additional money saving measures, to respond to the current statewide budget crisis.
Beginning March 1, 2004, there will be only one public entrance to the courthouse - on Hunter Square. By reducing the number of weapons screeners at the doors, the Court hopes to save about $50,000 annually.
"We realize that this may be an inconvenience to wait in line to enter the building," according to Court CEO Rosa Junqueiro. "But we want people to know that we are trying to save tax dollars and avoid future layoffs, while doing our best to provide essential court services."
In fiscal year 2002-2003, the Court had to absorb budget reductions totaling more than a million dollars, and then $742,082 this fiscal year. It is uncertain right now how much more the Court will be asked to cut. Plus, anticipated fees and fines are lower than expected, due to the late enactment of the state budget.
The Court has recently notified 14 part time/temporary employees, one half-time juvenile court referee, and 4 part time juvenile traffic hearing officers that they will be laid off March 1. There are now 17 full time positions vacant, with 266 full time employees remaining.
Counter hours in the Court Clerk's office will also be reduced by one hour, beginning March 1. In Stockton, counters will be open and phones will be answered from 7:30am - 4:00pm. In Lodi, Manteca, French Camp, and Tracy, customer service hours will be from 8:00am - 4:00pm.
"This will give our staff a chance to catch up on backlogged paperwork," Junqueiro said. "It's the only way we can keep statutorily mandated court business on track."
Another efficiency measure will occur for juveniles. Court appearances for infraction violations will no longer be mandatory. They can be taken care of by forfeiting bail or traffic school dismissal. This will save significant court time and staff time.
Additionally, all travel and non-mandated training has been suspended, and employees are being offered voluntary unpaid time off.
"We look forward to when the budget is in better shape, so that we can restore what we have lost during these difficult times," Junqueiro said.
Court users are encouraged to use the Internet whenever possible, to avoid standing in lines or waiting on hold. Traffic fines and bail can be paid by credit card, jurors can check on jury service, and Small Claims can be filed. People can also get a great deal of information - without waiting - on the Court's website www.stocktoncourt.org. Another rich resource is the Administrative Office of the Court's self-help section at www.courtinfo.ca.gov. All Court forms are available on line.
Snapshot of Court Business in 2002: