There is no apparent direct link between city government’s determined effort to get a new courthouse and a new, additional $50 fee the city will impose on traffic tickets, misdemeanors and water violations. Still, with the city facing a financial embarrassment over its courthouse plans, it’s easy to see a connection.
The courts, after all, are not merely a conduit for high-minded justice, but a strong revenue source.
The new “default fee,” by itself, hopefully won’t make a big dent in what the city needs to complete the transformation of former fitness center on Acoma Boulevard into a courthouse on what the city likes to call its campus.
With a purchase prices of some $3 million, the price for the courthouse conversion has gone up and up and up. An original guesstimate for renovation has swelled from about $1.5 million to some $3.5 million with an architect’s update.
The higher estimate still only provides one courtroom, exactly the number the court had in the county building. So where does this project go? Courts don’t do bake sales. But they do fees aplenty. It now has a new one, just approved by City Council as recommended by City Magistrate Mitch Kalauli .
The ordinance financial analysis didn’t say how much the fee might raise, so let’s just say it’s a decent chunk. Two thousand citation fees a year would gross $100,000. It’s enough for the court to show some skin in the courthouse game.
Again, there’s no apparent or stated link between the new fee and the new courthouse.
On the other hand, there’s no reason given at all for the fee other than the court needs more money.
The courthouse project has enough problems, from overpaying, to taking prime commercial property off the taxrolls, to not appreciating renovation cost, to add another.
Even if it’s not related.
— Today’s News-Herald