Citing a letter written by Supreme Court Chief Justice Craig Stowers to court employees, a recent article by KTUU reveals that beginning in July, Alaskan courts will close at noon on Fridays in order to cut costs.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Craig Stowers described the move as necessary. “I do not like having to close courts as a strategy to meet budget targets, but the simple fact is that there is a real and direct cost to the loss of funding,” Stowers wrote.
The move is said to be one of many cost saving measures taken by the Alaskan judiciary as the state tries to reduce a multi-billion dollar budget deficit. Austin Baird of KTUU writes that, “a handful of other initiatives are also under way: When an employee retires or quits, the position they held will not be filled. Travel budgets have also been reduced. Employees are being asked to take voluntary unpaid leave, and courts will close the day after Thanksgiving and on Christmas Eve, as well as three days early next year.”
Doug Wooliver, the court system’s deputy administrative director and overseer of the budget, said in an interview with KTUU that “$250,000 is saved each day the system shuts down. Even the closure days, we still have emergency hearings. We still can take domestic violence petitions and things like that.”
The article concludes that although questions won’t be fully answered until Gov. Bill Walker releases his budget proposal, gridlock and forced layoffs lie on the horizon because “76 percent of the $112 million budget goes to personnel, so any substantial cuts could force layoffs…and if budget cuts significantly exceed 3.5 percent then there will likely be no other choice.”