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With the budget noose tightening, San Francisco courthouses may have to forgo semi-annual window-washing and regular floor waxing. General janitorial service may also have to be cut back, and bottled water in courtrooms may become a quaint perk of the past. Those are just a few of the potential casualties of cost-cutting measures, court Chief Executive Officer Gordon Park-Li said Wednesday. “The whole thing is just trying to avoid layoffs.” Like courts around the state, San Francisco is scrambling to find ways to cut its budget in the wake of Gov. Gray Davis’ proposal to trim $50 million from the state’s trial courts this year and $200 million next year. Park-Li and his management team will continue brainstorming this week to find alternatives to cutting loose any of the 500 workers employed by the 50-court system. “That’s a worse-case scenario,” he said. The court administrators will eventually make their recommendations to Presiding Judge Donna Hitchens, Park-Li said. In the meantime, the court CEO said he is keeping her abreast of some of the ways his administrative office has already reduced expenditures. “We’re cutting travel and training, along with materials and supplies,” he said. “We may have to reduce our janitorial service that now costs $1.7 million a year.” Park-Li said the state Administrative Office of the Courts has told local jurisdictions to prepare for either a 5 percent or a 9 percent cutback. A 5 percent cut of San Francisco’s $60 million budget would require slicing $3.2 million from the spending plan, Park-Li said. A 9 percent cut would require a $5.7 million reduction, which most likely would require layoffs, Park-Li said. Court personnel account for 72 percent of the overall budget. San Francisco had requested a roughly 7 percent budget increase, to $64 million, for the fiscal year beginning July 1. That’s an unlikely scenario. In October 2001, the court let go of 16 temporary employees because of a lack of funds, and in July, Park-Li warned that court personnel may have to be furloughed to make ends meet. For now, Park-Li said just about anything that costs money is in play in the budget discussions. “We’re looking at the subscriptions to newspapers,” he said, noting the court spends $25,000 annually in keeping up with the news. “We’re looking at things as minute as the amount of bottled water we’re bringing in,” he added. But Park-Li said while other counties have closed a courtroom or darkened one for one day a week, that’s probably not going to happen in San Francisco. “I doubt we’ll close down for a day, because we must maintain our public services,” Park-Li said. But, he added, “There’s nothing that says how long you have to be open.” A year ago, the court started closing its document-filing windows a half-hour earlier, at 4 p.m. One of the AOC’s proposals to offset the budget cuts is to impose additional fees, which would require approval from the Legislature. Park-Li said one AOC suggestion is a $20 “security fee” to help pay for bailiffs. Court security accounts for 8 percent of San Francisco’s court budget. The fee would be tacked onto the $224.50 it costs to file a major complaint in San Francisco. Although most of the court’s funding comes from the state, the city contributes about 16 percent, or about $10 million, a year. Park-Li said much of the city money pays for defense lawyers on the criminal conflicts panel, who are appointed by judges to represent indigent defendants when the public defender has a conflict of interest. He said more and more conflicts panel attorneys are being appointed because the PD’s office is not at full strength. Public Defender Jeff Adachi has said he wants to reduce the caseloads of his attorneys, which could mean even more appointments from the conflicts panel.

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