State Politics

Nearly $400,000 restored to Manatee clerk of court's budget

MANATEE -- The Legislative Budget Commission voted Thursday to restore $29.5 million to budgets of Florida court clerks and comptrollers.

As a result, Manatee County will receive almost $400,000, putting its budget equal with last year's.

"That will allow us to rehire some people and open up the doors on the old time schedule," said R.B. "Chips" Shore, Manatee County clerk of court and comptroller.

Since July 2, the office has been open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Shore hopes to soon return to previous hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The statewide cut came earlier this year due to "reduced collection of court fees by clerks and a difficult budget year for the Legislature," according to a news release.

Shore said it could take until Oct. 1 for the office to return to normal operations because people will have to be hired and trained.

Instead of having to layoff employees with the most recent cut, Shore elected to not fill four vacancies left by former employees who accepted other jobs.

Shore said bringing in more

employees and expanding hours will benefit the public as well as the office in completion of duties.

"It allows us to get our work done," Shore said. "Adding the budget back will allow us to catch up where we got behind because we simply didn't have the manpower."

Shore said this year's budget cut was small compared to a 7 percent reduction three years ago that resulted in 24 employees being laid off and a loss of $1.4 million in funding.

Shore said with the restored budget for this year, the office is still down $1 million in overall funding.

The office processes everything from criminal, civil and juvenile court files, traffic tickets, child support and marriage licenses.

"We're just glad to be able to get back on track," Shore said. "We appreciate so much what the LBC did."

Elizabeth Johnson, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.