South Orange and Maplewood municipal court revenue is down more than 50% percent for the year through August. However the towns have seen reduced costs, adjusted budget projections and leveraged outside aid to make up for the shortfall, town officials report.
“Typically, what we would be seeing at this point in time is roughly about half a million dollars in revenue and year-to-date compared against Jan. through Aug. 2019 to Jan. through Aug. 2020, is that we’re down about $250,000,” said Collum.
Collum reported the updated court revenue numbers after meeting with Ryan Bancroft, the court administrator, and Maplewood and South Orange Township officials in September. She reported that staff had done a “great job” of shifting the court to remote services due to the pandemic.
Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee also confirmed that Maplewood court revenue is down significantly: “For the YTD period through August, our collections are down 58% YOY. Q2 posted the highest variance with a 87% difference due
McGehee clarified that the role of the court was not to collect money: “That said, the business of a court, our shared court is not to be a source of revenue, so we have been thoughtful on spending since Q2 when we recognized the projected impact of the pandemic.”
“Overall our revenues are down but expenses in our operating budget are also down over $757,000,” added McGehee. “Also, since we knew that Covid-19 would result in an uptick of non-budgeted item expenses such as PPE, we were one of the first Townships to leverage CARES funding for our COVID-19 related expenses. We received an initial allocation of over $636,000 and another $250,000 allocation was recently awarded. These allocations result in us having funding for non-budgeted items related to COVID-19 and we will continue to monitor both revenue and especially expenses through the end of the year.”
Although the reduced revenues were “bad news,” Collum said that the positive news was, “We were right in our projections.”
“We had anticipated during the budget workshops that we’d be down about 40% for the year. We do know that we are taking a hit. We know that we did this intentionally, we have not tried to take advantage of people,” reported Collum, who said that the township was “lax on the parking restrictions for a long time.” Collum did state however that the Township and police department were “never at any time” lax in enforcing statutes assuring pedestrian and motor vehicle safety.
“We were proactive, we were prepared and we adopted the 2020 budget based on the anticipation that we would have a 40% reduction court revenue and established what it’s looking like for this year.”
“The good news is that we planned for bad news.”