All of the elements of the proposed budget passed in Marilla with flying colors, but there was lingering debate about the town court.
The budget proposal did not include a raise for the two justices or the court clerk while all of the other town employees and elected officials were slated to receive a 5 percent increase. The proposed budget also listed the two justices earning unequal salaries. Board Members Randy Reichert and Matt Dolegowski said that they would like to see the justices earn equal salaries. Supervisor Earl Gingerich, Jr. was making a case to keep costs low. The court has not been bringing in as much money in recent years and he said salaries should be reflective of the workload.
“We have to match workload. You can’t have one area draining others,” Gingerich said.
While developing the budget, Gingerich said he estimated that the court would produce $15,000 in revenue for 2022, but year-to-date revenues are below that projection. He said when factoring in salaries, state retirement, disability, workers’ compensation and other benefits, it costs the town $62,000 to operate the court system. Gingerich said that the court is seeing fewer cases than in past years and he would like to see the gap in revenues and expenditures close.
In recent years, the board has made modifications to balance this with measures such as reducing the court clerk’s salary from a full-time and hourly position to a part-time salary position. One justice’s salary was also reduced when former Justice Dave Wyzykowski retired.
Gingerich wanted to see these measures remain in place while the rest of the board advocated for changes.
Reichert said he was uncomfortable accepting a raise if it wasn’t doled out to everyone. Council Member Anthony Sebastiano said that salaries should not be based on workload, especially for judges.
“They cannot control the workload. It’s up to the police. The judges are here to do their job, if the work doesn’t come to them, they can’t go out and write tickets,” Sebastiano said.
Justice Thomas Labin was at the meeting and he said in the nearly 50 years that he has been on the bench, if the town increased salaries they did not leave out the court. Labin noted that the local sheriff department does not write as many tickets in Marilla right now as they did in past years. He also said that when he imposes a fine, there is little consequence if it doesn’t get paid. He said the court can mail two certified letters reminding people to pay their fines, but if the fine doesn’t get paid there is little the court can do.
“If you get caught speeding, and I fine you $125, but you don’t pay it, there is nothing I can do. Before the new bail law went in, I could take a license, other things,” Labin said. “Unless the state gets back to where it should be then nobody will pay fines. It’s a terrible situation.”
In the end, the town board proposed raising one justice salary to match the other, and adding 5 percent to the salaries for 2023. They also proposed giving the court clerk a 5 percent raise. Both motions passed.
The town board will meet again on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. in the Marilla Town Hall on Two Rod Road.