City funding for court jumps to near $1.3 million
By Grace Lovins
In the midst of developing a new funding agreement for the 48th District Court, Birmingham received the court’s annual budget for 2023 during the city commission meeting on Monday, December 5, showing that Birmingham will be responsible for funding over $1 million of the court’s costs.
Birmingham is one of three main funding units for the court ,along with Bloomfield Township and West Bloomfield, meaning the three communities are responsible for most of the funding for the court’s operations and maintenance. The other four communities the court serves, known as political subdivisions, are responsible for a much smaller share of the funding.
The total 2023 operating budget is expected to be roughly $4.8 million, a 3.1 percent increase from 2022. Mark Gerber, the city’s financial director, explained that because of Bloomfield Hills’ withdrawal as a funding unit in 2021, the city should expect to see an increase in the percentage of cases covered by Birmingham at the end of the year. Because of this, the amount that Birmingham will have to pay the court is going to be significantly greater than in previous years.
With the removal of Bloomfield Hills as a funding unit and after an audit of Birmingham’s 2021 caseload, the city is projected to advance approximately $1.3 million for 2023, roughly up $28,000 from 2022, Gerber said. The money from the city is used for the overall operations of the court, including employee salaries, benefits, court operations, professional fees, security and capital improvements, according to Patrick Dunn, court administrator.
As a funding unit for the court, Birmingham does receive most of the revenue from the city's caseload, along with two-thirds of the revenue from the four political subdivisions. According to a report given to the commission, based on the city’s 2022 caseload, Birmngham has almost 40 percent of cases out of the three funding units, Birmingham is expected to receive approximately $1.8 million of court revenue for 2022, excluding the cost of prosecution reimbursement.
Dunn presented the budget to the commission, explaining that a number of changes have affected the operation of the court, such as the continued use of virtual proceedings as the court continues to recover from the pandemic. “We recognize that [$1.2 million] is an increase, but the inflationary rise and expenses that all business are experiencing is likewise present at the court,” Dunn said.
Following Dunn’s presentation, the commission questioned why Birmingham’s case load has increased by almost 18 percent while other communities’ caseloads seem to be going down, leaving Birmingham to be responsible for nearly 40 percent of the court’s cases in 2022. City manager Tom Markus answered, saying Birmingham has been more active in enforcement than other communities have, especially with things like pedestrian flow and noise complaints taken into account.
Commissioner Andrew Haig questioned Dunn about the number of cases each of the three judges in the court preside over and the efficiency of the disposal of cases compared to other courts and communities, essentially asking how the efficiency of the court compares to other communities with respect to caseloads. Dunn assured the commission that with the court’s current numbers, they are far exceeding all other courts around the state, and the efficiency of case disposal largely depends on caseload. Haig repeated he would like to see a comparison of the rate with other communities.
After questions concluded, the commission asked Dunn to return after he has had the opportunity to meet with Gerber to reanalyze the budget, with an estimate of the 2022-23 loss based on current cases, caseload per judge compared to similar communities. The budget will be presented to the commission again on Monday, December 19, for final action.