MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Juvenile Court Judge James Ronk came into his budget hearing Monday with cuts already in place to meet the 2010 financial guidelines placed by the Knox County Commissioners.
Ronk provided the commissioners with the specific line item reductions, and also came in $1,618 under budget for the combined juvenile and probate court budgets.
The commissioners asked Ronk to cut his 2009 revised budget of $676,200 down to $605,520. Ronk’s final budget from general fund money came to $594,350, over $11,000 less than requested.
Part of those savings, Ronk said, came from the loss of a probation officer to another job.
“I thought I’d be a good trooper and not fill that position,” he said.
Unfortunately, he said, not filling that position, as well as other cuts to the budget, will mean heavier caseloads for the remaining probation officers and fewer detention times available for youths at risk.
Ronk said there is a possibility to use state funding to fill that position and not funds from the general fund.
With deeper cuts than necessary in the juvenile court offices, Ronk was able to cut a little less than asked from the probate court’s budget. The commissioners asked for a reduction from $133,760 to $107,008. Ronk’s final figure was $116,560, with cutbacks of $17,200.
“We are trying to survive, is what we are trying to do in 2010. We are hoping 2011 is better,” Ronk said.
Ronk also provided the commissioners with a list reflecting his office’s efforts to increase revenue as well as find alternative funding for needed resources, including a new fee schedule, sending youth to a single detention facility to save on transportation costs and purchasing a transportation vehicle with non-general fund money. In addition, he provided an impact statement demonstrating what some cuts to the budget would have on the juvenile court and probation systems.
Aside from not immediately replacing a probation officer, Ronk’s staff remains in place, with no adjustments necessary.
“There has never been a point in time when I intended to curtail the hours of my people,” Ronk told the commissioners.
“We appreciate that,” said Commissioner Bob Wise.
Ronk’s budget cuts do not include any cuts in hours for employees, nor do they include any furlough days.
“If [Judge Otho Eyster] and Mary Jo [Hawkins] decide they have to go to a four-day work week, it’s going to make it hard for me not to close the doors on Fridays,” Ronk said.
Commissioner Teresa Bemiller said it was her understanding those kinds of cuts aren’t expected from Eyster or Hawkins.
Overall, the commissioners said they were pleased with Ronk’s cuts and ability to look for funding in other areas to continue to serve the people of Knox County.