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Clerk of Courts office faces layoffs

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By Alice Du Pont

State-mandated budget cuts have caused layoffs in the Gadsden County Clerk of Courts office.

Nicholas Thomas, county clerk of courts, was notified last month by John Dew, executive director of the Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation, that his certified budget expenditures had been cut.

"Specifically, your certified approved budget expenditures have been decreased by 15.16 percent. Your ABE has been modified from $1,434, 218 to $1,216,778.96," Dew wrote.

Thomas said that translates roughly into a $216,000 cut, which resulted in eliminating three positions and laying off four people.

"The layoffs are in felony, traffic, county civil and a file clerk/receptionist, Everyone is committed to sharing the load. By law, we still have to provide the services. It will be a challenge but the staff is committed," he said.

Thomas knew that there had been a decline in revenue. His budget is directly related to the fees that are collected from the people who use the services. But hard economic times and the associated reluctance of the public make large purchases means less money.

"Filing fees are down, recording fees are down and traffic fees are down, and that makes revenues go down," Thomas said.

In a memo to all of his employees last Friday, Thomas explained the changes. To combat the continued loss of revenue, he said, a full-time circuit civil family law employee was eliminated, one full-time misdemeanor/traffic employee position was eliminated, and one full-time administrative position was eliminated. In addition, a vacant position in the finance division will remain unfilled, travel and training have been curtailed, requests for desks and chairs will not be filled, and cost of living increases have been eliminated to further save money, he said.

"Today, four full-time employees were laid off. The remaining staff will be required to take one day per month furlough for the next 6 months. Your continued unified spirit, dedication and hard work will afford the means by which this office will continue to meet our constitutional duties to the courts and the citizens of this county," Thomas wrote in the April 1 memo.

"We want these people back and we are monitoring the revenues in hopes that we will be able to bring them back before too long," he said.