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Iowa Judicial Branch
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FY 2024 Budget

Iowa Judicial Branch FY 24 Budget

Governor Reynolds and the legislature appropriated $193,350,550 to the Iowa Judicial Branch for Fiscal Year 2024 that begins July 1, 2023. The appropriation is a 1.7 percent increase from the previous fiscal year and $10 million less than the amount the judicial branch requested to keep up with the rate of inflation. The appropriation did not include a salary increase for judges and magistrates whose salaries are set by the governor and legislature. With the appropriation, the Iowa Supreme Court has approved the judicial branch operating budget. The budget includes a 3% across the board increase and a 2% within grade increase for judicial branch employees, significantly below the increase in the price for food, housing, and transportation.

Judicial Branch Hiring and Retention

Last year, the judicial branch experienced a 14% turnover in employees. With so many people leaving, there are 130 vacant positions or more at any given time. Turnover is higher than normal due to the inability of the branch to keep its compensation current with inflationary pressures. Judicial branch employees are leaving for better paying jobs.

Judicial branch employees’ salaries have increased by only 7% in the past 6 years. The stagnant wages make it difficult to compete in the job market and tough to retain good, longtime employees. The chart below shows the percentage wage increase of Iowa Judicial Branch employees as compared to the rate of inflation and the Social Security Administration Cost of Living Adjustments.

Judicial Branch employees wages comparison to inflation and social security administration cost of living and adjustments

Sources: Judicial Branch wages, State Court Administration. Cost of Living Adjustments, Social Security Administration—https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/colaseries.html. Inflation, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Economic Research—https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FPCPITOTLZGUSA.

The judicial branch vacant positions are mainly court reporters and judicial specialists. The chart below shows the minimum starting salary histories of a Judicial Specialist 2, a Court Reporter, and a Juvenile Court Officer 1 as compared to the Iowa per capita personal income.

Judicial Branch employees wage comparison; minimum starting salary

Sources: Minimum starting salaries, State Court Administration. Iowa per capita personal income, Iowa Data https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FPCPITOTLZGUSA. Inflation calculator, https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

Judicial branch salaries are not keeping pace with inflation, the pay increases in the private sector, or that other public servants are receiving. The gap has been increasing during the past several years and our ability to retain and recruit employees has been affected by the stagnation of judicial branch salaries. The employees who have stayed with the branch have borne the brunt of maintaining the current level of service for Iowans by covering the workload of the vacant positions. State Court Administrator, Robert Gast

Judicial Branch Employees Salary In Contrast to Inflation; graph comparing Iowa Per Capita, Court Reporter, Judicial Specialist 2, Juvenile Court Officer 1

Sources: Minimum starting salaries, State Court Administration. Iowa per capita personal income, Iowa Data https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FPCPITOTLZGUSA. Inflation calculator, https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm
  • Between January 2018 and April 2022, the Iowa per capita personal income increased from $50,324 to $60,065 which is $1,368 more than the rate of inflation.

  • Between January 2018 and April 2023, the minimum starting salary for a Judicial Specialist 2 increased from $32,094 to $36,441 which is $2,838 less than the rate of inflation.

  • Between January 2018 and April 2023, the minimum starting salary for a Juvenile Court Officer 1 increased from $46,030 to $49,545 which is $6,790 less than the rate of inflation.

  • Between January 2018 and April 2023, the minimum starting salary for a Court Reporter increased from $51,958 to $55,910 which is $7,240 less than the rate of inflation.

  • Between January 2018 and April 2023, the salary for a District Judge increased from $147,494 to $158,056 which is $22,461 less than the rate of inflation.

  • Between January 2018 and April 2023, the salary for a District Associate Judge increased from $131,106 to $149,495 which is $19,964 less than the rate of inflation.

Retention and Inflation Adjustment Payment for all Judicial Branch Employees

Before the end of the current fiscal year, June 30, 2023, judicial branch employees will receive a retention and inflation adjustment payment. This is a one-time expense and is from FY23 personnel funds that were appropriated for personnel costs but unable to be used due to vacancies across the state. The employees who remained bore the brunt of the judicial branch being unable to retain or hire new workers. The retention piece is based on the employee’s years of service, and rewards employees who are at the top of their pay scale and are not eligible for the 2% within grade increase. The inflation adjustment piece will consist of a flat inflation adjustment. This is a one-time payment to encourage current employees to remain with the judicial branch.

The judicial branch will use the available funds resulting from the 14% turnover rate for this retention and inflation adjustment payment. All judicial branch employees will receive a flat inflation adjustment of $1,500.  The retention component will pay someone with 10 years of experience with the branch $1,000. Someone with 20 years will receive $2,000 and someone with 30 years will receive $3,000. The maximum years of service payment is $4,500 for people who have worked for the branch for 41 years or more. The minimum payment is $250 for those who have been with the branch for six months or less.

The branch is trying to find other measures to acknowledge the invaluable contributions made by judicial officers and judicial branch staff. This is an investment in our people to acknowledge the important work they do and the justice they provide to their neighbors and communities every day in all 99 counties. State Court Administrator, Robert Gast

Iowans in all 99 counties benefit from the services provided by the more than 1,700 judicial officers and judicial branch employees. These judicial officers and employees are members of every community and they resolve disputes to provide justice to Iowans who need assistance in the more than 700,000 cases filed every year. The education, skills, and experience of these individuals are the strongest assets of the judicial branch.

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