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Judiciary working to avoid layoffs

by Nick Delgado

Guam - The Judiciary of Guam is trying to avoid any layoffs, as the local court has a nearly $2 million shortfall in its Fiscal Year 2013 budget. A group comprised of court officials developed a reduction plan released today that hopes to get the island's court system in the black.

The Judiciary is $1.7 million short in its current fiscal year budget leaving the court to figure out how to fill the void. It received a total appropriation of $25.7 million in operational funding for FY2013. Already working on a bare bones budget, Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido tasked a group of division heads to see what other costs could be contained to avoid impacts to court employees.

"It was the collective decision by the division heads that in lieu of laying off our employees off that we try to minimize the pain and that is first we looked internally and they are the ones that stepped forward and said if substantial sacrifice has to be made that this is what they can absorb," he said.

A detailed deficit reduction plan was discussed during today's Judicial Council meeting. The plan picks at each division of the local court removing percentages of spending on various items and supplies. But administrator of the court Perry Taitano says even that wasn't enough, telling KUAM News, "The amount we propose to reduce in terms of operational cost excluding personnel cost is $619,689."

Judicial Council members discussed a number of ways to cut such as the possibility of cutting the amount of weapons training for marshals as well as reducing the pay for jurors. The Council has decided to hold-off using $900,000 in capital improvement funding to go towards its shortfall for operational cost. Aside from the 16 personnel currently on military deployment, 6 who have retired, the Judiciary has no intention of filling any of its vacancies, the officials here at the court say meantime they are faced left doing business as usual with the personnel that it has today.

But part of the funding shortfall will fall on the pocketbooks of court patrons as the Council approved increasing various fines and fees by 25% beginning January 1 of next year. But even that's not enough.

Discussion of a 36-hour workweek is also brought up to help make up the shortfall. "It's going to be a sacrifice," noted Carbullido. "They are going to work harder and be paid less."

Taitano added, "They'll do their job - if there are certain concerns that need to come to my attention then we'll deal with that, but it's not going to be business as usual as we are $1.7 million short of what we need just to get by."

The Judicial Council is allowing court staff to review the plan and will take action during its next meeting November 15.

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