Knox City Council Considers Discontinuing City Court

The Knox City Council is considering doing away with the Knox City Court. Following his annual report to the Council this week, Judge Charles Hasnerl ran into a barrage of questions by the Council and Mayor Rick Chambers when it was revealed that the court had run into the red.

Judge Hasnerl attempted to answer the Council member’s questions.

“The biggest problem is a shortfall,” said Judge Hasnerl. “We don’t have exact figures but if you just look at it in hard numbers, we’re looking at approximately a $40,000 difference between what the City Court budget is and what is actually going into the City’s General Fund.”

The shortfall occurred because the City has to share the court funds with the State and County.

“There’s breakdown set by the State of who gets what amount. The State gets the lion’s share of the court costs, the County does get a portion of that and the City is able to keep some of those court costs that goes into the General Fund.”

The Judge urged the Mayor and Council to go to their state legislators and the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and have them fight to allow the City to realize more of the funds.

“The money is there to cover the cost of City Court. If you look at our budget for 2012, we’re $105,000-$108,000 for that office. We handle literally thousands of cases.”

If the city does away with the Court, it would mean the County would have to set up a Superior Court and that could be expensive.

“If you consider another Court, where are you going to put it? You’re looking at facilities there and look at the needs the County has. We need a new jail. We’re discussing cost associated with the Library. We’re trying to limit cost and I think that just creates more cost for the County. I know the County is struggling financially.”

Hasnerl estimated that it would take at least $500,000 to establish and maintain a Superior Court.

City officials though wonder why they should have to go in the hole at least $40,000 to maintain a court that takes care of not only the City, but the outlying areas too, including North Judson and Hamlet. Councilman Ron Parker asked City Attorney David Matsey to come back with some figures showing exactly how much the City is losing.

The Knox City Court handles at least 2,500 misdemeanor cases a year, as well as 8,000-10,000 ticket infractions.

Of the approximately $380,000 generated by the Court, the state took $200,000, the County $77,000, and the City of Knox took the other $103,000. That figure seems unfair to the Council.