Pasco County clerk of courts Paula O'Neil said Friday that she will soon reduce customer service hours by an hour and a half each day after a "severe" budget cut approved by the Legislature this spring.
Starting July 2, customer service windows and call center hours for court-related business will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those offices used to be open from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.
"This is happening pretty much statewide," O'Neil said, noting that some members of the public might not have understood the day-to-day implications when the cuts were announced in March. "The people didn't make the decision; the Legislature did."
Lawmakers cut Florida's 67 clerks' offices by a total of $31 million, with $825,000 coming from Pasco. The cuts forced five staffers to retire early and mean that the office will lose 16 unfilled part-time positions and nine unfilled full-time jobs. Twenty staffers also took on new roles.
O'Neil's budget has been cut by more than $4 million since 2009, going from 435 positions to the equivalent of 320 full-time positions after the latest cut.
Shorter customer service hours will give employees more filing and processing tasks that were normally performed by other workers.
The reduced customer service hours affect only court-related business, such as when people need to pay a traffic ticket or request a document from a court case. Official records such as marriage licenses, passports and property records are not affected. Hours will also stay the same for non-court-related financial services.
O'Neil said there are pleading and payment drop boxes outside the customer service counters at the West Pasco courthouse and the Robert Sumner Judicial Center in Dade City. Paperwork received by 5 p.m. will be stamped as received that day.
There are several services online at www.pascoclerk.com, including traffic ticket and child support payment options.
O'Neil said House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford said state loans might be available later this year to plug some of the budget holes. But that money wouldn't arrive before July, meaning O'Neil must plan for the cutbacks.
Lee Logan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6236.