Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court Pat Frank made an impassioned plea to the members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation Friday to give her office more money.
It’s a speech Frank has repeatedly done to state lawmakers in recent years, and she once again cited statistics reflecting how much her agency is doing with so much less since the Great Recession of 2008.
At that time, Frank said the Clerk’s office had 954 employees and a $78.2 million budget. Now it’s a $58.8 million budget with 699 employees.
“We have done everything that we can possibly do to economize, to modernize, to customize the office to the technology that’s needed,” Frank said. “Our customer service has been improved. Everything is working well. But we’ve suffered budget cuts for nine consecutive years.”
Frank’s office is not the only one with major complaints about the lack of funding from Tallahassee. Earlier this year, the Broward County Clerk of the Court sued the state regarding the issue, calling on a Leon County circuit judge to declare “funding of the offices of the clerks of the circuit and county courts performing court-related functions” as unconstitutional.
Clerks of the Court from some of Florida’s biggest counties have been making the argument for years that the state doesn’t give back what is owed to the individual offices. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported last year that overall, the 67 clerks of court take in more than a $1 billion, but their allocation from Tallahassee in 2015 was less than half of that — $444 million to be precise.
“I find it confounding that as the legislature in its wisdom back when we had Article V say we were to be fully funded, as the Constitution says that we are to be fully funded,” Frank said. She added that her office sent back $10.8 million more to the state’s general fund last year than they took in.
She said the Legislature is free to spend the money they’re keeping from local clerk’s office in any way they fashion, naturally, but questioned spending $6 million to upgrade the state Senate chamber.
“I was there when the Capitol was constructed,” Frank told lawmakers, referring to her previous career in the Legislature.
“And I don’t need a face-lift yet,” she quipped.
Following Frank to the podium was Andrew Warren, the just elected State Attorney in Hillsborough County. After he too complained about a lack of funding for his office, Brandon Republican Sen. Tom Lee, the head of the local delegation, was sympathetic, acknowledging that the reduction in foreclosures and fines has hurt the funding for those offices.