Referring to his father, Clerk of Court Tom Bexley told county commissioners on Monday, “he told me, when you need something from a man, you walk up on his porch, you knock on his door, you look him in the eye, and you talk to him. That’s what I’m doing today.”
After outlining the effects of covid-19 on his office–the $600,000 in lost revenue, the reduction from 62 jobs to 54, including four actual layoffs, the lingering uncertainties–he asked for a $250,000 emergency appropriation out of the county’s general fund budget, itself already strained and operating on low reserves.
“This does not reinstate the people that I’ve lost. This keeps me from cutting further,” Bexley told commissioners.
They appropriated the money, setting a precedent they may not be able to replicate as falling revenue is cascading over state and local governments. Bexley’s ask was an opening shot in what may be several seasons of contractions.
Many look at government and governmental entities as immune to the effects of the pandemic due to the reliance on ad-valorem property taxes to support us and our governmental operations,” Bexley said. While property taxes do provide that reliable source, he said, “I know you are painfully aware of the additional reliance on user fees such as sales tax, gas tax, hotel bed tax, to keep us solvent and productive. Well, our office is not immune to that either. We rely on additional sources.”
The clerk’s office as set up in Florida has innumerable responsibilities, supporting the judiciaries, the public and county governments, from accounting to financial reporting to payroll processing and auditing, court filings, deeds, real estate documents and so on. The office operates on two budgets–court side and non-court side, the latter fed by user fees and an annual appropriation from the county commission. The court-side budget is fed through traffic tickets, court filings and the like: that’s seen a 33 percent drop in revenue. “So when cuts have to be made to
“Being fiscally prudent can only take you so far, and time has caught up with us,” Bexley said, describing how several weeks ago he laid off “friends, colleagues and neighbors in order to keep this office solvent. Decades of institutional knowledge walked out of my office in one day. It was truly one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do. Bottom line though is this cannot continue.”
Come Oct. 1, it’s not certain that the office could carry on as is, so it’s considering closing some sections of the office that deals with the public to half days. “I think we’re all trying to stay hopeful and positive, knowing that the economy is going to recover,” Bexley said. “But when will that day arrive? This week, next week, next year.”
Four of the eight positions were reduced through retirements and leaving open positions unfilled. The other four entailed actual layoffs.
He asked for the one-time emergency appropriation beginning Oct. 1 to allow the office to continue its work as one of the ways to make ends meet. The eight positions eliminated saved around $200,000. The county’s $250,000 infusion would make up another portion of the gap. Bexley expects improving revenue to make up the remainder of the lost $600,000.
The clerk’s office is not eligible for federal Cares Act funding, nor may the county draw on that funding to make up its appropriation to the clerk. But the commission’s motion to provide the money includes a proviso that, shoul;d the law change, Cares Act money in the future would be used to make up the loss to the county. So the money is coming out of the county’s reserves.
“As you know we’re working desperately to get our reserves to the accepted minimum, clerk is aware of that and he has worked with us,” County Administrator Jerry cameron said, “this is exactly why you need reserves, because this is an unforeseen situation that the clerk could not have possibly planned for, nor could we.”
The commission’s vote to appropriate the money was unanimous.
“If things don’t get better, there could be more dire consequences later down the road, or if covid cases go up and we have another shut down of the courts, that’s such an unknown thing,” Bexley said.
Since Bexley did so much to help the Sherrif in this county, i suggest we defund the Sherrif a bit and give that money to Bexley. It seems absolutley fair.
Just wait until Bexley sees the raises County employees are in store for and he’ll be back asking for more.
What am I missing here? Mr.Bexley says revenue is down 33% on the ‘court-side’ of his office. From that statement one must infer that there is a reduction in the number of the fines, court filings and traffic tickets to be processed. More simply put, with that reduction there must be a corresponding 33% drop in the workload. I realize things are not really that simple but surely there is a lessening of the work. That said, it is time for layoffs. Sorry, but we do not need to keep people in positions because they are our friends and neighbors. There is an expectation on the part of the taxpayers that this and all county departments will practice fiduciary responsibility. Raiding the county coffers (taxpayers pockets) to maintain employment levels that the workload cannot support is simply untenable.
On another note, when I read that this office employed 62 staffers I was floored. I know several counties with populations nearing 300,000 with less than half this staff. Sounds like someone needs to do a serious staffing evaluation, and that someone should not be a part of the agency being evaluated.
In the many years I spent in government I was witness to many department heads (especially elected officials) building fiefdoms where they would create more positions than necessary. When the day finally came that a successor had to cut positions it became painfully obvious how over-staffed they were.
How this can be resolved?… by our sheriff appropriately fining all these speeders and open mufflers explosions sound vehicles in our 40 and 30 MPH limit and the truck drivers violating the No Trucks on residential roads plus all the speeders in our saltwater canals west of the Palm Coast Marina. Sure they will make up for $250,000 in addicyioanl income for the court house.
C’mon man says
Money from traffic citations does not go to the county. It is spread out to several areas within the state. Sheriffs office only gets about 7 bucks per ticket.
Lance Carroll says
Is the court system the most crooked business in the land?
How is it that the court system is able to, somehow, base operations on revenue? Blind justice, I guess…
What does it mean, when court operators say: “if things don’t get better?”
Wow!!! Is there not even enough fat cash left to support the slanted eyes of blind justice?