LIVINGSTON COUNTY – Mandatory changes to the Livingston County District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office from New York State will likely strain the county’s budget process.
Though it is technically still unknown how the county will be financially affected by a state-mandated $30,000 raise for the District Attorney and widened eligible income bracket for the Public Defender, the changes will most likely leave the county in a tough spot to cover these increased expenses.
“New York State has increased the pay for Livingston County Court Judges, thus requiring us by state law to pay our District Attorney $183,297.75 in 2016, up from $151,775 in 2015,” said County Administrator Ian Coyle. “Normally, when this happens the state provides us with additional funding to cover the raise, but not this year.”
The state has also mandated that effective October 2016, those who make up to 250 percent of the federal property line qualify for the public defender in Livingston County. In 2015, only those who made up to 125 percent of the poverty line qualified.
After this mandate, a single person must make more than $29,700 per year to be ineligible for the Public Defender. A married couple must make more than $40,050 to be ineligible and a family of three must make $50,400.
“We are obviously expecting an increase in the number of cases for the Public Defender’s Office,” said Coyle. “I’ve seen surrounding counties in similar circumstances have their caseloads increased by anywhere from 12 to 50 percent. I’m expecting us to fall right in the middle of that, and we will most likely need more employees in that office to cover this increased caseload.”
The changes to the Public Defenders Office do not go into effect until October 1, 2016. In the meantime, New York State could choose to provide funds to Livingston County to help offset this cost.
“The County will comply with state law,” said Coyle. “However, both the mandated raise for the DA and the increased caseload for the Public Defender, with no financial relief from the state, would most definitely be a budget strain.”