Des Moines, June 1, 2016 —Today, the Iowa Supreme Court approved the Fiscal Year 2017 Iowa Judicial Branch budget that begins July 1, 2016. The budget includes a statewide hiring freeze that is required because of a more than $5 million shortfall in this year's legislative appropriation.
The $178.7 million appropriation is equal to the appropriation in FY 16 but is $5.4 million short of the amount needed to fully fund judicial branch operations at the current level of service. The shortfall is approximately 3% of the current operating budget. The increased costs to the judicial branch includes $5.1 million for salary annualization from FY 16, plus across-the-board and step increases for contract covered and noncontract covered employees, along with anticipated increases in the cost of health insurance in December of this year.
"With this budget, the supreme court tried to minimize disruption of services to Iowans despite the significant shortfall in our appropriation." State Court Administrator David Boyd said. "The budget does not include court closure days or layoffs, but there will be consequences. With unfilled positions in courthouses around the state combined with fewer judges, Iowans can expect delays, and our troubled youth may not have as much interaction with juvenile court officers as they do now. Additionally, there are no guarantees this budget will resolve our problem. If the vacancies do not cover the shortfall, the court will have to reconsider the possibility of court closure days or layoffs."
The legislature sets the salaries of judges and magistrates, subject to the governor's approval. This year's appropriation does not include a judges' pay increase. Judges and magistrates have received one pay raise since 2008. The budget does institute a moratorium on the expansion of specialty courts, such as family treatment courts and juvenile drug courts. The budget also requires approval of the supreme court to eliminate any specialty courts currently in operation.
A hard freeze on judicial branch hiring is anticipated to cover $3.2 million of the shortfall with another $834,000 savings expected from keeping judges' vacancies open for 6 months. The remaining $1.4 million necessary to balance the FY 17 budget will come from reductions to non-personnel line items including a 50 percent reduction in furniture and non-information technology purchases, a 20 percent reduction in office supplies and postage, and a 10 percent reduction in in-state and out-of-state travel, educational and training programs, and telephone services. The freeze and reductions apply to all components of the judicial branch, from the district courts and juvenile court services to state court administration and the supreme court.
A special page has been added to the Iowa Judicial Branch website with details of the FY 17 budget and the services provided by the courts. The web page includes an online suggestion box to hear from Iowans about the impact of these budget decisions and to hear suggestions regarding improved services.
As part of the effort to develop long term planning options, the court has asked the state court administrator to complete a workload study of all aspects of judicial branch operations. The results of the workload study will guide future judicial branch budget decisions.
"The court appreciates the continued support of judicial branch employees as well as the legal and business communities," Chief Justice Mark Cady said. "The court will maintain regular meetings with the judicial council, judicial branch employees, attorneys, and business leaders to discuss the results of the judicial branch workload study, listen to the impact of budget decisions on services for Iowans, and develop long term planning options."
For More Information:
Steve Davis, Court Communications Director, (515)725-8058 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Iowa Supreme Court
1111 East Court Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50319