Fact Check: Courthouse Maintenance Funding

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Recent media reports have contained errors and misleading statements about how courthouse maintenance and renovations are funded and managed. Get the facts here.

About Funding for Court Construction and Maintenance  
Money for maintaining, renovating, and building California’s courthouses comes from three funds with a similar legislative intent: addressing the critical infrastructure needs of the judicial branch. The funds overlap in their purposes, no single fund is reserved only for new construction.

The Court Facilities Trust Fund supports operations and maintenance, utilities, leases, and insurance. It comes primarily from county facility payments, which are inadequate to meet growing maintenance needs. The state Legislature originally intended to supplement these funds with General Fund dollars, but the state’s budget crisis has largely prevented this support.

The State Court Facilities Construction Fund supports construction, renovation, and facility modifications. It comes from fines and fees collected within the judicial branch, with a limited amount of county reimbursements.

The Immediate and Critical Needs Account supports construction and renovation of the 41 most critically needed courthouses and provides limited funding for facility modifications. It comes from fines and fees established by Senate Bill 1407 in 2008.

Since 2009, the state Legislature has borrowed or swept $750 million from these funds for needs outside the judicial branch. Funding for courthouse maintenance and repair is shrinking in relation to growing needs as the buildings age and their systems deteriorate.

About Facility Modifications Management and Oversight
The judicial branch is responsible for 20 million square feet of court facilities statewide to serve the public. The Administrative Office of the Courts responds to court requests for routine maintenance and immediate repairs and works with the courts to plan and prioritize preventive maintenance and larger repairs and renovations.

Planned repair and renovation jobs, also called facility modifications, receive two levels of oversight:

A group of judges and court executive officers, the Trial Court Facility Modification Working Group, meets eight times annually to review and approve every planned repair and renovation project. Emergency repairs are handled immediately and reported to the working group. This group ensures that the funds are used as intended to the benefit of all courts.

The Judicial Council sets policy about prioritization of repairs. The working group’s annual report and long-term list of projects receives higher level review. The report and list of projects for the current fiscal year was approved by the council in August 2011 (download/listen to presentation).

The AOC also reports planned project lists annually to the state Legislature.

About “Bundling”

Bundling involves grouping related maintenance and repair tasks together to increase efficiency and save money. It is a common practice in the industry to bundle tasks together for a single building system or single building.

Example: Perform technical inspection and repairs for all air handler units in a building.

The AOC has been bundling maintenance and repair tasks for years. The projects have all been approved by the working group. Because of limited funding, particularly for preventive maintenance, this practice expanded last year.

Quotes

Superior Court of Solano County Judge David Power, Chair of the Trial Court Facility Modification Working Group “The funding decisions are made by the working group. We review the ranked proposals, we review the priorities the AOC suggests, we approve all funding decisions, and I believe they are consistent with the Trial Court Facility Modification Working Group Methodology. The focus with limited resources in my judgment must be on public access, public safety, and ensuring that the courtrooms are safe and secure and clean.”

Administrative Presiding Justice Brad R. Hill, Fifth Appellate District of the Court of Appeal and Chair of the new Court Facilities Working Group “The judicial branch is faced with budgetary challenges at every level of operations. We will need to make tough decisions to balance priorities within the state and within the branch. Balancing priorities in the court facilities program is particularly challenging this year because hundreds of millions of dollars collected within the branch to support facility needs are now going to the state’s General Fund to support other budgetary needs. Access to justice requires safe and secure facilities for the public to conduct their business.”

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