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Mecklenburg County Funding of the Criminal Justice System
 
One of the questions asked in recent weeks concerns the total local investment being made by Mecklenburg County taxpayers for the state criminal justice system. In North Carolina, the prosecution of criminal cases is statutorily required to be paid from State funds. However, in Mecklenburg County, the level of resources provided by the N.C. General Assembly is insufficient to enable the court system to operate efficiently and effectively. Therefore, local tax dollars from Mecklenburg County (and the City of Charlotte) have been provided to supplement state funding.
 
In the current fiscal year (FY08), the County funds 43 court-related positions at a total cost of $3.4 million. This funding provides:
  • 23 positions in the District Attorney’s Office, including 11 assistant district attorneys
  • 8 positions in the Public Defender’s Office
  • 9.5 positions in the Trial Court Administrator’s Office
  • 2 positions in the Clerk of Court’s Office
 
After subtracting revenue generated by court fees and charges, the County’s net contribution to the court system operations is $1.2 million in this fiscal year.
 
Consistent with the Jail Master Plan recommendations, I will be including in my recommended budget for FY09 an additional $1 million to fund additional court system personnel and equipment. These resources are proposed to implement the initiatives the state justice agencies agree are the top priorities to make the system operate more efficiently and effectively in adjudicating cases. This includes adding 36 new positions as follows:
  • 11 positions in the District Attorney’s Office, including 6 additional assistant district attorneys
  • 5 positions in the Public Defender’s Office, including 4 additional public defenders
  • 4 positions in Clerk of Court’s Office
  • 7 positions in the Trial Court Administrator’s Office
  • 9 positions in pretrial services in the Sheriff’s Office.
 
In addition to providing discretionary funds to supplement court-related operating costs, Mecklenburg taxpayers also fund costs that North Carolina counties are statutorily required to cover, such as the construction of jails and court facilities. In the current fiscal year, debt service on jails and courts totals $24.3 million. In FY09, we project the total debt service on jails and courts to be $25 million. In addition, Paygo funding for jails and court facilities for the current year and projected for FY09 is $19.7 million combined.
 
For more information, contact Associate General Manager Michelle Lancaster at 704-336-2621.
 
 
North Carolina Behavioral Health Partnership on Hold
 
The Mental Health Legislative Oversight Committee (LOC) has adopted recommendations to implement changes to the mental health system. Senator Martin Nesbitt filed a bill (S1610) this week so that these recommendations can be considered during the 2008 Short Session of the General Assembly. The recommendations address funding and oversight in a variety of areas. They also include a provision that would prohibit any attempts to form voluntary partnerships among Local Management Entities (LMEs)  until January 2010. This particular provision is in reaction to DHHS Secretary Benton’s proposal to begin the voluntary consolidation into regional LMEs. This bill, if approved, would effectively put on hold the North Carolina Behavioral Health Partnership between Mecklenburg, Guilford and Smoky LMEs.
 
As a result of the LOC’s discussions regarding its proposal, the three LMEs (Mecklenburg, Guilford and Smoky) began evaluating potential next steps. While there are valid reasons for establishing these types of partnerships, it has become clear that agreements need to be reached between the legislature, the governor and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services before the LMEs can decide how to proceed.
 
Smoky Mountain LME has decided not to pursue the proposed partnership, while Guilford and Mecklenburg will implement the same core Information Technology (IT) systems and will re-examine joint administrative efficiencies. By implementing the same core IT systems, we will position ourselves to take advantage of any future partnership opportunities. We also are exploring other potential partners and options.
 
Although the partnership would present an opportunity to streamline services and cut costs, Area Mental Health Director Grayce Crockett believes that consumers in Mecklenburg County will continue to receive high quality services. We will keep the Board informed about further developments. If you have any questions please contact Grayce Crockett at (704) 336-8638.
May 16, 2008
 
 
- Harry L. Jones, Sr., County Manager
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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