Court cost increases to be added on in August

Published 3:00 am Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pike County residents can expect to pay an additional $35 in court costs beginning in April.

The increase is a result of a local act passed in May by the Legislature. The act adds $35 to court costs for all criminal and quasi-criminal cases brought in the municipal, district or circuit courts of Pike County and to all civil cases excluding small claims court in the district and circuit courts.

County administrator Harry Sanders said that increase takes effect August 1 and requires no additional action by the county commission.

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The additional fees will go into a “jail fund” for the purpose of paying the “cost of maintaining, repairs, and operating the county jail or jail complex.”

“We passed it to help with the operating costs of the jail,” Sanders said. “Operating costs are expected to increase when we open a new jail … We’re expecting costs could as much as double what they currently are, so we’re not expecting this to solve all of our problems.”

Sanders said additional fees should generate an extra $140,000 to $150,000 a year in revenue. Those funds won’t cover the operating cost of the current facility though, much less the new jail, Sanders said.

“The rest of the money for operating expenses will come out of the general fund,” Sanders said. “These funds will just help to offset the increased expenses.”

Sanders said the commission’s plan is budgeting estimated revenue conservatively as based on court data.  Any money collected between August and when the yet-to-be-constructed new jail facility opens will accrue interest.

The commission had proposed an additional $500 tax on anyone convicted of selling or trafficking a controlled substance, but that item was omitted from the final act passed by the Legislature. The intent of the act was to match Coffee County’s court costs.

“Pike County was lower in court costs, so this makes court costs the same across all of District 12,” Sanders said. “That was the intent and I think that’s what the Legislative Reference Service did.”

The bill was one of two requested by the commission regarding the new jail, with the other being a temporary sales tax to fund the construction.

Sanders said that bill has also passed and that he expects the commission to address their portion of the sales tax increase at an upcoming meeting. A sales tax resolution is on the agenda for Monday’s meeting, which will be held upstairs at the Pike County Health Department starting with a work session at 5:15 p.m. and ending with the commission meeting at 6 p.m.