I went to Tallahassee to ask legislators for their help. Now I’d like to ask for yours.
I joined other Clerks from across the state Wednesday, March 15, for Legislative Day 2017. I spent much of the day meeting with Hillsborough lawmakers to impress upon them the toll that nine straight years of budget cuts has taken on our operations and urging them to support measures to provide all clerk’s offices with a more predictable and sustainable funding mechanism.
Our budget has been cut by 25 percent and our staff has been reduced by a similar amount. We have done all we can to increase efficiency. We have reorganized our entire court operations and invested in new technology that has saved time and money.
I stressed to all of our legislators that we cannot afford another round of cuts. I was heartened to hear how much support we have among our hardworking legislators. Both the House and the Senate are working on measures that could provide some relief. But we are a small part of a huge multi-billion dollar budget and we are easily overlooked as legislators debate matters ranging from the environment to higher education.
One thing is for sure: if the Legislature does nothing to address our funding situation, we will be faced with $1.5 million or more in budget cuts. Such a large cut will require difficult choices that could affect customer service.
We are already experiencing long waits at our customer service counters. If we have any hope of fixing that problem, we will need more staff, not less. A 10th consecutive year of budget cuts is simply not acceptable, particularly when my office collects far more in fines, fees and costs than we spend. You may not know this, but $11 million is siphoned from our operations by the Legislature to be spent on things that have nothing to do with my office or the courts.
I believe the money collected locally should be spent locally to improve service for our customers, not used to fund unrelated projects around the state.
The Hillsborough lawmakers said they would do what they can, but they need to hear from every one of you. Go here
to find out who your state senator is. Go here
to find out who your state representative is. Call or email them and let them know that inadequate funding for our office hurts everyone.
Let them know you are a constituent and a voter. And if you are not registered to vote, you can start the process online
I served in the state House and the state Senate. One thing I learned from those years is that when voters speak, lawmakers listen. So please join me in demanding adequate funding for the Clerk’s Office. There is no more basic service government can provide than what my office does every day.