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SLO courts unions to vote on cutbacks

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Tough choices are on the table for the San Luis Obispo Superior Court, which is facing more than a $1 million shortfall in its 2011-12 budget.

The court is looking to shave approximately $800,000 in salary expenditures, which account for 80 percent of its expenses.

According to Susan Matherly, executive officer for SLO County Superior Court, the cuts will mean people should expect longer lines in the courthouse and longer waits for trial dates. Overall, cases and such services as records requests will take longer to process.

Matherly said family law and civil cases may be delayed, but the court can’t legally delay criminal, juvenile, or domestic violence cases.

The court’s 145 employees will also be stretched thin.

“There’ll be more back-logs, more work on their desks,” Matherly said. “There’s only so much you can do in a day.”

In anticipation of cuts, all court contracts are being renegotiated, Matherly said. Many other services, including janitorial and paper shredding, will now be done in-house. She said the savings from reducing janitorial services may net up to $100,000 this year.

In addition, Superior Court Judge Teresa Estrada-Mullaney is set to retire in January 2012, and the court will leave her position vacant. While the court will save money from one less courtroom, service levels will certainly be impacted.

The court has roughly $1.3 million in reserves, Matherly said, but is holding on to those funds in anticipation of what’s expected to be an even rougher 2012-13 budget.

As of press time, the 105 voting members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 620 were deciding whether to accept furloughs or face layoffs.

The supervisory court employees and members of the San Luis Obispo County Employees Union (SLOCEA) were also scheduled to hold a similar vote.

According to SEIU steward Cathy Ochoa, the vote will be decided by a simple majority. Furloughs would result in a 10 percent salary cut for union members. If they vote against furloughs, at least six positions could be cut.

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