Budget to force Judiciary to cut back/cut down

by Mindy Fothergill, KUAM News
Friday, September 30, 2005

Court director of policy, planning and communications Dan Tydingco says lawmakers' decision on the Fiscal Year 2006 budget has forced the local Judiciary to not only pinch pennies, but figure out where to make cuts. Despite justifying its request for an increase for the coming year during budget hearings a few months ago, Tydingco says lawmakers still left the courts nearly a million dollars short of their request.

The courts, unlike the executive and legislative branches, have yet to restore increments to its employees. Additionally, the judiciary requested lawmakers consider raises for the six trial court judges who haven't seen increases in their pay in fifteen years. "Unfortunately we didn't get an opportunity to elaborate any further," Tydingco told KUAM News. "Obviously they thought that whatever testimony we had proffered during the public hearing a few months back was sufficient enough."

Tydingco says with $900,000 less than they were expecting, court officials are going back and crunching the numbers for operations and personnel. "We're sitting down with our financial management people and all of the divisions to figure out how we can best approach giving the employees the increments, despite having been insufficiently funded. So what we're going to have to consider is what impact that's going to have on the existing personnel vacancy levels that we have," he continued.

Among the cuts will be not filling vacancies and cutting back on travel, supply and utility costs. Judiciary Committee chair Senator Robert Klitzkie (R) maintains the budget bill gives the courts enough money to restore increments and function for the next year. "The Court got one of the biggest raises of any government agency," he assessed. The second-term policymaker also said, "They got a couple million dollars more than they got last year - [an] 11.7% increase. When we got to the Court's budget I explained that there was money in the budget to fund salary increments for all Court employees but there was no money for travel, and vacant positions were not funded but there was money in the budget to pay salary increments for employees."

In fact, the Judiciary will receive a little more than $20 million for FY2006, but Tydingco maintains the Court may be back at the Legislature's door this time next year, if funds start running short. "There's a characterization in there that for example, there was several hundred thousand dollars, which are federal funds. That's not in the mix," explained Tydingco. "They're including that in the mix. When we did our presentation of the budget, the total appropriations we had sought again just strictly for the increments of the employees; altogether we're still short over $900,000."

• Click here to see the Fiscal Year 2006 budget as passed by the 28th Guam Legislature

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