Layoffs and shorter hours ahead for court clerks
If you have to pay a traffic fine or serve on jury duty, you're in for some bad news: The budget the Legislature will pass Friday cuts the court clerks' budgets statewide by $31 million, a 7 percent across-the-board reduction that clerks say will result in layoffs and shorter hours across the state.
Pinellas Clerk of Court Ken Burke says he'll have to lay off 18 full-time employees. He says he also may close a branch office on U.S. 19 in Clearwater and is considering shortening his hours of operation, from the current 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"You're going to see the cutting of hours," Burke says. "I don't see how we can stay open our current 8 to 5 and man the phone banks. Most likely, we're going to cut access off that way -- not because we want to, and I hate to do that -- but because of the cuts."
Court clerks are independently elected constitutional officers, but the Legislature has controlled their budgets since 2009.