Budget woes hit DA’s office | SteamboatToday.com

Budget woes hit DA’s office

Extra staff unlikely for 2009 in 14th Judicial District

Melinda Dudley

Fourteenth Judicial District Attorney's Office administrator Donna Zulian discusses the office's tight budget Thursday at the County Courthouse in Steamboat Springs.

— Tight budgets and decreasing revenue prospects are not only straining Routt and nearby counties, but also are trickling down into the 14th Judicial District.

The Routt County District Attorney’s Office hoped to add two part-time administrative staff members to its 2009 budget, Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham said Thursday in Steamboat Springs. But it’s unlikely that the 14th Judicial District can find a way to add staff when it is poised to be limited to a 2 percent increase for personnel next year, Oldham said. The newly elected district attorney met with county commissioners and finance staff from Routt, Moffat and Grand counties to discuss budget issues.

The financial outlook likely will not be good when Oldham takes office in January.

Although the number of prosecutors has increased throughout the years as caseload in the 14th Judicial District has increased, administrative and support staff levels have been stagnant for more than 20 years, outgoing District Attorney Bonnie Roesink said.

A tight budget further put office staff in a bind – there isn’t money for overtime, but Roesink said comp time is not an option either, as they “can’t live without them when they’re off.”

“Attorneys are doing more and more of the clerical work,” Roesink said. “It’s a dilemma.”

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While acknowledging the staffing constraints faced by the District Attorney’s Office, Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush pointed out that the same arguments can be made by nearly every other department, in Routt County and elsewhere.

“That’s the bind we’re in,” Mitsch Bush said. “We, in Routt County, have not been increasing (full-time employees).”

Within its judicial district, Routt County is budgeting the lowest cost-of-living increase for its employees in the 2009 fiscal year – 2 percent, Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said.

With the unique funding arrangement of the judicial district – where personnel costs are divided proportionally by population among member counties – the 2 percent cost-of-living increase will be written into the district’s budget, even though Grand and Moffat counties would have been able to budget more, Oldham said.

A cost-of-living increase of 4.3 percent originally was requested for 14th Judicial District staff.

Although personnel costs are split between Routt, Moffat and Grand counties, because many staff do not exclusively work in a single jurisdiction, each county’s District Attorney’s Office has its own operating budget.

Roesink, who is retiring at the end of her term in January, thanked the assembled elected officials and county staff members for their hard work while she was in office. Roesink has spent 22 years as a prosecutor in the 14th Judicial District.

“I don’t envy you in this upcoming budget session,” Roesink said.