Warning to Courthouses: Layoffs, Furloughs “On the Table”

Apr 17, 2017

The chief administrator for the judicial branch of state government is warning court employees across the state of possible layoffs or reduced courthouse hours, if a proposed GOP judicial branch budget is approved at the statehouse.   

These are tough times. -Court Administrator David Boyd

In a memo to staff, David Boyd briefed employees on the proposed budget for next year which reduces judicial branch spending by $3 million compared to this year. 

Boyd said tough decisions will need to be made.

“All options will be considered including, but not limited to, layoffs, reduction in hours, and/or reduction or elimination of specialty courts,” Boyd wrote, “and other new programs that have recently been developed to better meet the critical needs of Iowans.”

Judicial branch employees are scheduled to take an unpaid furlough day next month and a hiring freeze is in effect.  

Chief Justice Mark Cady
Credit Joyce Russell/IPR

That’s because this year’s funding was already inadequate, according to Boyd.

“Our FY 17 appropriation was $5.5 million short of the amount needed to maintain a full service court system for all Iowans,” Boyd wrote.

The Judicial Branch cuts are part of a proposed $7.2 billion state budget for next year that reduces state spending across state government due to slower-than-expected state tax receipts.

Republican budget-writers defended the proposed judicial branch budget.

“We tried to do the best we could for all the departments within our budget subcommittee,” said Rep. Gary Worthan (R-Storm Lake).  “Other budget subs have bigger challenges than we have.”

We tried to do the best we could. -Rep. Gary Worthan

Worthan said he will introduce an amendment to the budget to give courts flexibility to scale back hours at the courthouses.

“Maybe go to a 36 hour week or a 32 hour week at clerk offices around the state,” Worthan said.   “It’s going to be a challenge.”  

Chief Justice Mark Cady said his staff will try to implement the cuts with the fewest disruptions to court services.

"We're prepared to go forward and continue to do the best work that we can," Cady told reporters after meeting with legislative leaders.