Jackson County will take on the state in its own game of cuts by keeping traffic citation money from going to Madison. The move would be the first time in the state when the circuit court and district attorney’s office will openly work to regularly amend state traffic charges to county ordinance violations. The process would allow more money from fines to stay local instead of being divided with the state.
“This move would be kind of in-your-face with the state,” Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Lister said.
The change in procedure is an attempt to counter anticipated cuts coming from the state as the county struggles in some areas to balance its budget.
Lister said the county stands to gain $121,000 annually instead of allowing the state to collect it.
The county court is primarily targeting traffic citations issued by the State Patrol. They would amend the tickets from state violations to county ordinance violations in an effort to keep the ticket money local.
Traffic citations from a trooper are based directly on a state statute, and half the base deposit goes to the state common school fund and half goes to the county where the citation was issued. When a municipality has a traffic violation ordinance — which typically adopts a state statute and has the same fine — that municipality keeps the entire base deposit.
Lt. David Pabst with the State Patrol’s Bureau of Field Operations said he could not comment on Jackson County’s move because he wasn’t familiar with the matter. However, he said it will be looked into whether the county can implement the process.
“This is something totally new that they’d be taking on,” Pabst said. “I’m not even sure they can do that.”
The Jackson County Clerk of Courts Office sends about $908,000 in traffic deposits, fees, surcharges and assessments it collects to the state while the county keeps just $300,000.
“I think that is unfair,” Lister said. “I think that is unbalanced.”
By having state traffic charges amended to county ordinances, it’s estimated the county could net up to $100,000 a year. If the county would create an ordinance for seat belt violations, it could see an additional $21,000 a year.
Lister said the district attorney’s office will decide which violations to amend, but he will honor such requests.
Jackson County DA Gerald Fox also supports the move.
“I’m going to do, legitimately within the law, (what I can) to redirect these revenue streams,” Fox said. “Nobody likes the thought of the DA and sheriff out on the side of the road with their hand out.”
Jackson County Sheriff Duane Waldera said his department attempts to keep law enforcement citations under local ordinances, and he supports finding ways to keep money local when infractions occur locally.
“We need to make some tough changes” when faced with tough economic times, he said.
“I think it’s a positive ... to see what we can bring back to the county — or not leave the county,” Waldera said.