The El Dorado City Commission voted 5-0 to pass an ordinance to allow an increase in court-cost fees at Monday’s meeting.
El Dorado Police Chief Curt Zieman spoke before the Commission about the benefits of giving the fees a bump in rate.
“When you look at all the stuff the municipal court does, you’ve got the records clerk constantly hassled with work, you’ve got the judges’ salary, you’ve got the city attorney’s salary,” Zieman said. “Somebody gets a court-appointed attorney, we pay that fee. $200 bucks a whack. This continues to rise.”
In addition, he referenced a survey from 2014 that revealed El Dorado’s court cost fees to be lower than most surrounding towns’ costs.
El Dorado’s court cost fees currently are at $73, but as soon as July 1, the desired date set by the City to implement the new rate, the cost will be increased to $90. Zieman showed that the new figure is more in line with surrounding towns, including Andover ($90), Butler County ($93.50), Douglass ($96) and towns a bit further such as Goddard ($110.50) and Winfield ($93.50).
Increased revenue will be seen largely because, between criminal and traffic cases, a wide portion are traffic violations, which tend to get paid more often than not.
“The vast majority of those charges are traffic violations,” Zieman said. “Criminal, we have a lot of them, but that’s a smaller part of what we do than the traffic. The reality is most traffic tickets are paid. There’s a small part that’s not. If those don’t get paid, we issue warrants and turn to collection. We never quit trying to collect those debts, either.”
Another benefit to increasing the fees will be to keep a little bit more money with the court itself. Of the $73 currently received for each court-cost fee, the municipal court keeps the other $44.
Under the new rate, $61 will go to the court, with an additional $10 for continuances and $10 more for suspended licenses. $23.50 of that goes to pay a state statute while $5.50 goes to local advocacy groups, which the City partially helps fund, as well.
City Attorney Ashlyn Lindskog also mentioned how the money currently received from court-cost fees doesn’t completely stay with the municipal court.
“We have to pay the KPI, we have to pay the State, we have to pay a lot of other fees,” Lindskog said.
Lindskog added that if someone is insolvent, the increased rate will alleviate some pressure in paying others to do work that goes into cases.
“Raising those costs enough to make the time you’re having your prosecutor or a judge or clerk, all those people, spend their time on those things makes sense to me,” Lindskog said.
More of the court fees’ revenue may be utilized by the police department, too, though that’s not the primary goal.
“It pays for the court, but doesn’t put a dent in the police department’s budget,” Zieman said. “I know that’s separate deal…but this would be less money to have to come out of the general fund.”
Other items discussed at the meeting included:
-City Manager David Dillner reported successful coordination with USD 490, BCC and other groups in preparation for the upcoming Shrine Bowl, which will include a parade, a 5K run and various clinics, which will involved moving kids back and forth between events quite a bit.
Dillner also proposed postponements of July’s City Commission meetings to avoid conflicting with the Fourth of July Drums Across Kansas. The July meetings now are July 5 and July 18.
-The Commission approved of a Community Improvement Designation for Holiday Inn Express, which incurs an increased sales tax of 2 percent. The increase largely will paid by out-of-town visitors, but the revenue will further help the City in its current and future endeavors.
-The Commission moved forward with the plans for the extension on Country Club Rd. from McCollum to E. 29th St. in preparation for the new elementary school near that location.