26 days – Two different budgetary measures of standard

Posted on August 21, 2011


Good morning, California. Today we’re going to touch on the two different budgetary measures of standard. The measure of standard in the case of the trial courts is how much money you’re being alloted in a budgetary sense. In the trial courts, budgetary allowances, the money the trial courts receive, drives the ability to provide services to the public.

The other measure of standard is a bit blurred because no one really knows where all of the AOC’s revenues come from, since they make an effort to claw back funding from everything they touch in addition to budgetary allocations. The offering of services by the AOC that they can claw back funding from – by having so many services to offer the trial courts (even if the trial courts don’t use them…) is the driving force behind the AOC’s business model. Most in private industry try to drive margins of revenue against head count through the sales and pricing of their products and services. The AOC has a captive customer in the trial courts. In some cases, MOU’s define that the AOC will have exclusive control of certain products and services that the courts will pay for. Unlike a private business, the AOC doesn’t need to profit. It only needs to show that it spent most or all of the money. 

One way of ensuring that most of the funding is spent is through head count because trial courts can relate to employee expenses. Yet when we look at certain divisions over at the AOC, for example, the Office of Court Construction & Management, the salaries amongst many in that division are about 30% higher than they would be in the non-government world. 

Add a lucrative pension and world-class benefits on that to boot and that kind of money buys a whole lot of quiet because no one wishes the gravy train to end.

When our chief justice granted raises while trial courts were cutting pay, benefits and people, she explained that the raises were possible because of budgetary savings in the previous years. Yet, by all accounts, overall spending was up year after year, so revenues needed to also be up, even while courts were being forced to take reductions.

There are some 30 people that get even better benefits through the AOC’s top loading of pension benefits. While top loading of a pension benefit plan would be unlawful in the private sector, top loading of pension benefits on top of stratospheric salaries is commonplace in the AOC and also serves to keep the gravy train flowing.