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City approves 2024 budget for 48th district court

By Grace Lovins

The 2024 fiscal year budget for the 48th district court, roughly $4.8 million for total operations, was approved on Monday, December 4, by the Birmingham City Commission during their meeting.

The 48th district court services Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills, West Bloomfield, Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake and Orchard Lake. These communities are also responsible for funding the court. Birmingham, Bloomfield Township and West Bloomfield are considered the funding units, carrying the bulk of the costs for court operations. The remaining four communities are considered political subdivisions and provide a lesser portion of the total funds.

Birmingham finance director Mark Gerber explained portions of the budget and how it compared to the previous year. According to Gerber, the 2024 budget is very similar to the 2023 budget, but the city’s advance to the court has increased.

“The amount that we advance to them every quarter is based on the last audited caseload numbers. That would be 2022 numbers,” Gerber said. Based on the numbers from 2022 with Birmingham accounting for 38.6 percent of the caseload, the city would be required to advance the court $1,865,942.

“Now this is a substantial increase in the advance from the previous year but that’s because the previous year included Bloomfield Hills in the percentage amount and the fact that Birmingham’s caseload percentage has gone up significantly compared to the other communities,” Gerber said.

According to Gerber, the court’s revenues and expenditures will likely differ between last year and this year by between $400,000 and $450,000.

Court administrator Patrick Dunn noted that the budget reflects some of the changes the court has been making over the last year due to the Clean Slate Act which took effect in April of 2021.

The court has started a program over the last year that makes criminal convictions more eligible for expungements or set asides through an application process, said Dunn. The second part of the act, referred to as automatic expungement started in 2023, which does not require an application process but significant administrative work, according to Dunn.

Even with the changes, Dunn and Gerber both explained that the court’s proposed budget is very similar to the fiscal year 2023 budget which Dunn said is possible due to cost cutting in other areas, such as information technology and hiring. The court currently has several open positions that they are not looking to fill.

“I’m very pleased to see that on the operational side the court has definitely made progress. Thank you for that,” said commissioner Andrew Haig.

The commission discussed approaching state legislators about the issue of funding the court, as the city’s financial burden has increased with Bloomfield Hills pulling out of being a primary funding unit.

Ultimately, commissioners voted 6-1 to approve the fiscal year 2024 budget for the court with commissioner Brad Host voting against approval.

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