By Linda Bentley | NOVEMBER 4, 2015

Cave Creek isn’t celebrating court consolidation
arrangement

ĎCave Creek pays a significant amount more for operational expenses and directly incurs most incidental costs of the courtí

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Peter Jankowski

CAVE CREEK – Although the consolidated Carefree-Cave Creek Municipal Court received a sterling performance audit, Cave Creek Town Manager Peter Jankowski recently issued a memo to council questioning the financial arrangement between the two towns and recommended council discuss making some equity adjustments to the intergovernmental agreement.

Jankowski made a point of saying his review did not include any measurement for operational efficiency of the court and it was his understanding the court is now in compliance with the Administrative Office of the Courts and is more efficient.

He reviewed the budgets for Fiscal Year 2016 and actuals for Fiscal Year 2015.

Revenues for FY2015 year totaled $149,085 with expenses coming to $411,163, which left a net operational deficit of $262,078 before any contributions from either town.

Cave Creek contributed $181,112 toward the deficit, $100,146 more than Carefree’s contribution of $80,966.

The FY 2016 budget reflects revenue estimates remaining at around $150,000, with a 9.3 percent increase in expenditures over last year to $437,988, leaving an estimated operational deficit of $287,998.

Of that $287,998 deficit, Cave Creek will contribute $184,100, while Carefree contributes $103,898.

In other words, Cave Creek is budgeted to contribute $80,202 more than Carefree.

According to Jankowski, in reality, expenses will be less than budgeted, yet Cave Creek will still be required to contribute the full $184,101.

Jankowski notes the consolidated court agreement is a cost sharing arrangement.

However, he expressed concerns over whether Cave Creek is getting fair financial treatment for court costs or if it is providing a sizeable subsidy to Carefree.

Jankowski said if this were a true cost share agreement, and the operational deficit was evenly split, Cave Creek would save approximately $40,101.

He also questioned the “transition fee” payment of $31,992 per year to Carefree for the first two years, which Jankowski said he understands is for the space Carefree used for their court, and asked, “Is this the same space Carefree uses for council meetings?”

Last, he said Cave Creek independently pays for the full costs of the court’s alarm system, janitorial, building maintenance, water and sewer utilities, electricity, telephone and internet.

These expenses are over and above what Cave Creek pays to Carefree in its monthly/annual assessment for court services.

Jankowski noted approximately 39 percent of the citations occur in Cave Creek with 61 percent occurring in Carefree.

From conversations with Carefree Town Administrator Gary Neiss, Jankowski was informed the more severe complaints, such as DUIs, occur in Cave Creek and take more time and effort to prosecute than civil traffic citations.

However, Jankowski said he was unable to confirm those assessments from court records.
He said for FY 2015 the actual expenditure for the Cave Creek prosecutor was only $9,730 more and the Cave Creek prosecutor accounted for only 57.66 percent of the total prosecutor’s budget.

Jankowski summarized his concerns by saying it was his understanding the projected cost savings (based on assumed operational costs) used by the former interim town manager, were speculative.

It was also his belief the court was poorly run compared to today’s operations.

Jankowski continued, “And I also speculate, certain individuals were more concerned about having a deal made than the deal itself.”

He said, “Cave Creek houses the court and all the related expenses. Cave Creek pays a significant amount more for operational expenses and directly incurs most incidental costs of the court.”

While Jankowski made it clear he was not advocating terminating the arrangement, he indicated it would be timely for town council to discuss making some equity adjustments to the agreement with Carefree.

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