The Riley County Courthouse could be closed for as many as seven weeks in fiscal year 2015.
Administrative District Judge Meryl Wilson brought that possibility to the Riley County Commission Thursday, saying a way must be found to reduce the court’s budget by around $9 million next year.
The shortfall is being predicted based on actions by the Kansas Legislature, which approved a two-year budget covering both fiscal 2014 and 2015 during its session earlier this year.
Wilson told commissioners his suggestion would be to cut a variety of smaller budgetary items, but he acknowledged the easy answer would be to shut down all the state’s courts for that seven-week period.
Ultimately the decision on how to eliminate the projected budget gap will be made by the Kansas Supreme Court. The court’s fiscal year begins in July of 2014.
Wilson said his employees haven’t received a cost of living increase in several years and are living “paycheck to paycheck.” He said furloughing employees could cause major monetary problems.
Wilson, who is on the system’s budgetary committee, said he has provided suggestions on ways the system could budget better and make more efficient use of employees. But he said the suggestions “never left the judicial committee floor.” He also told commissioners he remains uncertain whether the best course of action will be taken.
“We can’t continue to operate the way we are,” Wilson said. “I can’t predict what they are going to do in Topeka.”
After two meetings among law enforcement officers, county and city officials details are emerging on the money and equipment needed to bring the courthouse into compliance with the state’s concealed carry laws.
Riley County Police Department director Brad Schoen said the main entrance will need to be manned by two non-sworn officers and one sworn officer. That entrance would be equipped with both a walk-through metal detector and an x-ray machine for bags. Inside each courtroom, Schoen believes that it will take two sworn officers to help with security.
“This is going to be a big deal,” Schoen said about the cost of personnel and equipment. He estimated the cost of the equipment alone at a minimum of $36,000. Schoen said he is going to continue to work with the city, county and courts to figure out the best security method for the least amount of money, but makes no guarantee.
“This has the potential to make life suck,” Schoen said.
Extension 4-H youth development agent Kristen Garcia has resigned and a search has begun to fill that position. Riley County Extension agent Jennifer Wilson said the hope is to hire a new person in time to be in the office working by December.