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March 20, 2014

Norman finance committee finds dollars through fees, outsourcing

NORMAN — Norman traffic citations could become $25 costlier in the near future. A proposal for the implementation of a municipal court technology fee met with strong support at the City Council Finance Committee meeting Wednesday night.

Municipal court Administrator Ronda Guerrero and Assistant City Attorney Rickey Knighton reported that the city could glean more than $500,000 annually through assessing a $25 fee on all citations except parking violations. Based on Fiscal Year 2013 data, 20,103 cases were disposed of by the city’s municipal court. That would have generated $502,575 if a $25 fee were attached.

If an ordinance implementing the fee is approved by the city council, the money will go into the general fund to offset the cost of current technology. City council members made it clear they were attracted by the possibility of recovering some of the cost of enforcing the city’s laws.

“It’s a fee that evidently is coming into play in more and more communities to recoup the cost of the electronic systems that improve the efficiencies of our courts,” Council member Jim Griffith said. “We modeled ours after the district courts.”

Guerrero told council members the ultimate goal will be to have a paperless system in the municipal court in the future.

Norman’s municipal court technology includes 15 desktops and one laptop computer, video arraignment equipment and court-related software.

In 2009, state statute was changed to allow a governing body of a municipality to “determine by ordinance the court costs and fees that may be charged and collected by the clerk of the court,” city staff reported. Fees charged by other cities range from $5 to $40.

Knighton said the $40 fee seemed to be overkill and the $25 fee is consistent with what district court clerks in Oklahoma are authorized to charge and collect for the acquisition, operation, maintenance, repair and replacement of data processing equipment and software associated with the administration of the criminal justice system.

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