There are several reasons many courthouse studies have happened over the years. Individuals elected to serve on the Board of County Commissioners at various points during the past 15 years asked the county facilities staff to study the courthouse issue because the building has not been meeting the county’s needs for a long time. Following each of the studies, those serving on the county commission at the time of a particular study determined it best to remodel and add on to the courthouse rather than build a new facility. This was primarily because of the expense required to build a facility and the need for some type of tax increase to fund it. In addition, there were other projects and funding needs during those years that the Board of County Commissioners determined should take priority over the courthouse concerns at the time. Those included funding to support schools, improve the county’s jail, and a new crime lab.
During the recession, commissioners at the time wanted to avoid a tax increase for the courthouse and they also avoided a tax increase despite the county’s decreasing budget. Instead, they addressed $46 million in budget reductions by making numerous cuts to the county budget without increasing taxes. This included eliminating 428 full time staff positions (12% of the workforce), reducing and eliminating merit increases and spending down general fund reserves significantly. Last fall, the individuals serving on the current county commission determined it was important to look at the courthouse issues again, since the challenges with the facility remain and continue to grow.
Click here to view some of the studies that the various county commissions requested over the past 15 years. The presentations to the various commissions are also online at this same link. We also have copies of each of the studies in our county offices for anyone to review upon request. One benefit from all of these studies is that the current proposed plan is now a smaller building that is less costly. Another benefit of the studies has been the numerous operational changes that have led to improved efficiency, function and savings to the county and the courts.