‘We’re excited about a lot of different options that were not in the other buildings’
As the Centre County commissioners review the proposed 2019 budget, the revenue generated by the county’s six district judge offices is one of the areas they’ll analyze.
The state police barracks at Philipsburg and Rockview consolidated on July 24 and police have since operated at 330 Penn Tech Drive in Benner Township.
Police have said the merger will not affect response times, but it has led to fewer cases being filed — and subsequently less revenue — at District Judge Allen Sinclair’s office in Philipsburg, according to Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe.
“The local judges are not there to make a profit. They’re there for the administration of justice and that’s gotta be paramount,” Pipe said. “We need to be judicial about county taxpayer dollars, but they need to be able to be judicial about the law.”
Revenue for each office comes from fines and fees levied against those who work their way through each respective office.
Pipe said a “good portion” of that revenue goes to the state government and any deficits in an office are made up with county property taxes.
“Let’s say it’s a $300,000 office that’s being run. Let’s say they only bring in $200,000 of fines and fees. That $100,000 is then that deficit that we would then make up with county taxpayer dollars,” which is no different than any other county office, Pipe said.
And while Sinclair’s office — about 27 miles away from the new barracks, has seen a decrease in revenue — it is not expected to be significant. The office brought in $98,200 in 2017 and generated $78,142 through October.
Meanwhile, District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker’s office, which is about three miles away from the new barracks, brought in $164,011 through October — an increase from the $134,416 it generated in 2017.
“There is no other change that’s occurred within the last 12 months in the Moshannon Valley in the area where that MDJ office is, other than that barracks downsizing and then shifting out to Rockview,” Pipe said. “That’s our best estimate of the reason.”
Pipe also attributed the increases, in part, to police departments using new technology, like Spring Township police becoming the first department in the county to use license plate readers.
While it’s a small sample size, Pipe said the commissioners have had conversations with the judges, their offices and President Judge Pamela Ruest about possible shifts.
The proposed budget — which does not include a real estate tax increase — is available for public review and final adoption is scheduled for Dec. 27.
“MDJs play a huge role in the criminal justice system,” Pipe said. “More and more they can divert individuals from incarceration and instead participate in treatment courts like the DUI court or drug court.”