As the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council prepares to approve an $880 million budget for the next fiscal year, some city-parish departments and agencies are making a last-ditch effort for a larger piece of the pie.
Baton Rouge City Court on Wednesday requested $386,040 from the city-parish’s general fund to help purchase a new case-management system, which they have spent the past few months begging for but hitting brick walls in finding funding.
The Metro Council will approve the budget in December, and can change line items and move around funds with a supermajority vote of the council. The draft of the budget was prepared by Mayor-President Kip Holden’s administration.
City Court Judicial Administrator Lynn Maloy told the Metro Council at a budget hearing that the request for the extra money was the consequence of the Metro Council not authorizing a City Court fee collection in September.
Back then, Maloy told the Metro Council that the court’s case management system was outdated and falling apart. She said a $5 to $10 user fee, which would go toward a court technology fund, would help pay for an updated system.
The fee would only be charged to people convicted of crimes in City Court. But the Metro Council narrowly voted against approving it in September, with some members calling it a tax.
Now, Maloy is saying the City Court still needs the case management system, but with the Metro Council’s vote against the fee, the court is forced to ask for general fund money.
Maloy said updated case management would make the city court and parish prison more efficient. The $386,040 the City Court wants from the city-parish would supplement $541,210 the court has already set aside to help fund the new case management system.
Council members Chauna Banks-Daniel and Buddy Amoroso were among those who originally voted against the fee. Both said Wednesday they wished they could change their votes and that they would support the fee if it came back to the Metro Council.
Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis, who supported the fee the first time, pointed out that taking money from the general fund for the case management system is also taking taxpayer dollars.
“We’re paying for it either way,” Collins-Lewis said.
Maloy said she wants to bring the user fee back to the Metro Council in 2016, and the City Court would not need the general fund money if the Metro Council signed off on the fee. City-parish Finance Director Marsha Hanlon said the city wants the case management system money to come from a fee and not from the general fund.
But Maloy maintained the City Court’s request for the general fund money. She said the City Court hopes to put out a request for proposals in January, and the implementation of a new case management system might take between nine and 12 months.