State budget cuts trim court business hours

Colorado's budget crunch will soon leave residents with one less hour for business at the Moffat County Combined Courts office.

Effective March 10, hours open to the public will be rolled back indefinitely to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 14th Judicial District staff said Monday.

Evan Herman, district administrator, said the cut hour means staff in Moffat and Routt counties already weakened by state-mandated furloughs will have more time to work only on court business.

"In talking to clerks, this is what they said would help them with minimal disruption for the public," Herman said. "Between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. court business has slowed for the most part."

Court proceedings aren't affected by the new hours, while the public would still be able to drop off documents to be filed with the court between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.

A mail slot labeled for court business will be placed near the main customer service window at the Moffat County office by Monday, court staff said.

Clerks in each office of the district serving Moffat, Grand and Routt counties must take one unpaid day off each month until June, which marks the end of the 2003 fiscal year.

Furloughs, combined with an indefinite hiring freeze, have resulted in some 2,300 lost work hours for clerks in the current fiscal year.

"Workloads haven't gone down but hours have and some things just aren't getting done as timely as they once were," Herman said.

Judges can't take unpaid furlough under Colorado law.

With an estimated $869 million revenue shortfall for fiscal year 2004 still to be addressed by the Colorado Legislature, Herman said further impacts would be seen, but aren't clear now.

Layoffs have been avoided thus far, but at least three programs -- from legal assistance to those unable to afford attorneys, to judge-sponsored intervention efforts with at-risk children -- were eliminated last fall.

"These program won't be restored," Herman said.

Diana Meyer, Moffat County's court clerk, was unavailable for comment Monday.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craig dailypress.com.

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