In Talladega County, District Attorney Steve Giddens has already had to let go two long-time employees — investigator Ken Sisk and administrative assistant Sherri Thornton.
“It’s a terrible thing to have to do, and I know it’s a lot worse for the employee than it is for me. But we’ve been cut and cut and cut already, and now Gov. Bentley has told the District Attorneys Association that we will be prorated 15 percent. And frankly, without alarming any of the other people that work in this office, we may need further action down the road.”
The DA’s office is funded through the state general fund, but gets less than half of its operating expense from the state. The balance comes from grants, court costs and collections on worthless check charges. “And in a down economy, it’s almost impossible to make anything off worthless checks. And people are having a hard time keeping up with their court costs, too.”
The estimated overall cost for all district attorney offices in Alabama last year is about $62.5 million, with $22.6 million coming from the state. In Talladega, the cost to operate the DA’s office last year was just over $900,000, with $422,000 coming from the state, according to a chart published by the Fair Trial Tax organization’s Web site.
At the same time, Giddens pointed out, the Indigent Defense Fund received $41 million from the general fund and another $24 million from the Fair Trial Tax Fund.
“I’m not knocking poor people having lawyers or the indigent defense program. I did a lot of that kind of work when I had a private practice, before I was DA. It’s important. But the situation is kind of hard to stomach. We provide victim services and public service, we try cases, handle child support and worthless checks. I wish it was different.”
Grant funded programs, such as the Talladega County Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, are OK until the end of the fiscal year, but there is no telling after that.
“I haven’t heard anything about Byrne grants (that partially fund the task force) coming out of Washington, but a lot has changed up there since the last election. I won’t know anything until we get the application in.”
The threat of 15 percent proration comes on top of a budget for this year that the legislature had already cut by $5 million.
Contact Chris Norwood a email@example.com.