LACEY - The City of Lacey could pay an additional $100,000 this year for court services after hammering out a new contract with Thurston County District Court.
A new six-year deal that comes before the City Council tonight would implement annual fee caps. However, it also includes sharp increases to pay for services, including judge salaries, that the county previously covered, county manager Don Krupp said.
The amount the city pays in court filing fees is set to increase drastically. Lacey paid the county $115 for each driving-under-the-influence filing in 2010. The new fee is $276, a 140 percent increase. Other filings, such as traffic, parking, criminal traffic and criminal non-traffic, will more than double in cost.
The county hadn’t completed a rate study since 2002, and many costly items weren’t being accounted for.
District court is available to all municipalities in the county, and Rainier, Tenino, Yelm and Bucoda have agreements to use the county’s service. Tumwater has its own municipal court but sometimes uses the county.
Without a court of its own, Lacey has used the district court for more than four decades. The city generates a significant chunk of the overall proceedings at the county; Krupp said that between 2007 and 2009, about 25 percent of the 42,000 court proceedings in district court, came from Lacey, as well as 10 percent or more of the overall filings.
Until now, the city paid filing fees and several other costs but wasn’t charged for items such as salaries, court security and overhead, Krupp said.
Krupp and Cuoio say the new charges are significant but agree they are equitable. They say they are happy to continue the county-city relationship.
“It’s much higher than we’ve been paying in the past, but on balance, it’s fair,” Cuoio said.
Costs associated with small claims court or civil lawsuits are not part of the contract because the plaintiff and/or defendant are responsible for payment, Cuoio said.
Implementing the new rates overnight, which could have increased the city’s cost by $264,000 this year, would have been too much for the city to handle, Cuoio said. So the city and county agreed to phase in the added costs.
The incremental increases are meant to create predictable budgeting for the city going forward while allowing the county to receive equal payment for its services. To pay for the larger increase this year, the city reorganized priorities in its $32 million operating budget, but no services will be affected, Cuoio said.
Cuoio said the possibility of the city housing a municipal court has been discussed, but City Hall’s logistics and the additional resources that would be needed would make that difficult.
Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/outsideoly