State court officials are considering stopping at least two court construction projects and delaying several more to fill a budget gap.
According to the Administrative Office of the Court, a working group tasked by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to oversee the judicial branch’s facilities program is recommending several ways to proceed with “minimal delay on most projects in the court construction program as well as the elimination of two projects in Alpine and Sierra counties.”
The working group’s recommendations are expected to be considered by the Judicial Council at its Dec. 13 meeting.
In addition to eliminating the Alpine and Sierra projects, a new subcommittee appointed by the chair of the working group, Administrative Presiding Justice Brad R. Hill of the Court of Appeal Fifth Appellate District, will review projects still in their preliminary phases to look for cost reduction strategies.
The working group also endorsed a pilot program that delegates authority to courts that are willing and able to oversee their own maintenance projects. “The committee will recommend that the Judicial Council endorse efforts to restore and supplement funding for facility maintenance and modifications which have undergone significant funding cuts this year,” Teresa Ruano, a spokesperson for the AOC said.
Ruano said Inyo County’s court facility project in Bishop will not be delayed or cancelled.
“The committee recommended we proceed without any kind of delay in Bishop,” she said. “The sub-committee will be looking at cost reductions for a number of projects in December, and that relates to the project in Bishop.”
Ruano added that, at this point, the project cancellations and cost reductions are only recommendations, and a final decision will be made at the Dec. 12 meeting.
“This is very good news that our court project will not be cut at all,” Inyo County Court Executive Officer Tammy Grimm said. “They have recommended to cancel two projects, but the Inyo project has been recommended to continue without delay.”
Ruano said the working group also confirmed an accelerated schedule for engaging a consultant to provide ongoing independent oversight for the entire court construction program. That consultant is expected to be hired early next year.
“We need to close a significant budget gap in the courthouse construction program for this fiscal year as well as set future direction for the program in light of unprecedented fiscal challenges for the state as a whole and the judicial branch in particular,” said Justice Hill. “At the same time, the working group feels strongly that we must maintain our commitment to facilities infrastructure, as improvements are urgently needed statewide. We believe these recommendations achieve that balance.”