June 25, 2012 5:10 PM
KATIE LUCIA, Staff Writer

BARSTOW • County court officials say they are looking at closing the Barstow courthouse among other options as they brace for “staggering” funding cuts from the state.

Under the proposed state budget, California Superior Courts in San Bernardino County could see a projected $21 million in cuts for the fiscal year beginning July 1. That’s a fifth of their current operating budget, according to Court Executive Officer Stephen Nash. The cuts would include a one-time reduction of between $14 and $15 million to the court’s reserve — slashing more than half of the $27.5 million currently saved in the fund.

“Truly, these are staggering cuts that are facing the court system,” Nash said.

But the court’s financial crisis is bigger than the cuts, Nash said. This fiscal year they expect to end $5 million in the red due to last year’s cut. They will have to dig into their now-shrinking reserves.

When all is said and done, Nash expects an ongoing annual shortfall of $19.3 to $21 million.

“That’s a significant operations hit,” Nash said.

To balance the budget, Presiding Judge Ronald Christianson is considering all options, Nash said, including closing courthouses in Barstow and other sites.

Cutting staff and benefits is another option on the table, Nash said. With more than 80 percent of the budget for San Bernardino County courts spent on staff, officials are already meeting with employees to discuss ways they can reduce costs.

Either way, the cuts will affect the 37 court employees in Barstow.

“When you look at reductions like this, it forces you to look at everything and that’s what we’re doing,” Nash said.

To read entire story, click here.