Pandemic takes toll on court funding

Gavel (Pixlr)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s court system is taking a financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report issued this week by the state Revenue Estimating Conference said court fees, known as “Article V” fees, in the 2019-2020 fiscal year were $48.3 million below what had been estimated in December, before the pandemic largely shut down courthouses and scaled back business activity.

The 2019-2020 fiscal year ended June 30, and the report also points to reduced estimates of court fees in the coming years.

“The shortfalls across the judicial system (county court, circuit court, family court and traffic court) and the clerks were widespread, leading to a combined loss across all categories and revenue recipients of $48.3 million,” the report said. “This loss was largely induced by the impact of the worldwide pandemic on court operations; the statewide safer at home order regarding essential services which -- among other things -- affected the amount of traffic on the roads; various state and local government office closures; and actions to provide forbearance on delinquent payments and foreclosures.”

The report also said foreclosure filings in the coming years are expected to be higher than in earlier estimates.