CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - With the state facing a nearly $4 billion shortfall, court leaders in Mecklenburg County are preparing for the worst case scenario when it comes to funding.
"We're already way under in the number of positions we have," said Todd Nuccio, Trial Court Administrator. His office helps provide support staff to judges and the courtrooms, plus handle case management.
Nuccio is preparing for a budget cut anywhere from five to 15-percent. He says if they have to cut positions, the level of service to residents in Mecklenburg County will be impacted. Cases will take much longer to travel through court.
"North Carolina is a lean operation to begin with, and we're already at the bone. We'll be cutting into the bone," he said.
Statewide courts get less than three-percent of the budget pie. The lack of funding is evident in national rankings. North Carolina is 49th in judges per capita; yet ranks 10th in the number of felony cases per capita.
As for Mecklenburg County, Nuccio says it accounts for 18-percent of the state's violent crime, 15-percent of the state's property crime; yet only receives about seven-percent of the state's court funding.
Nuccio says it's possible state lawmakers will tell the court system to target certain programs, like Drug Court. It helps rehabilitate non-violent offenders going through prosecution. Nuccio says for every dollar spent on Drug Court, it saves taxpayers between $3 and $7 when jail time, medical costs, and unemployment are reduced.
Nuccio says if they have to cut services and positions, cases will take much longer to work their through the system.
He hopes the cuts can be off-set by raising court fees. The General Assembly will likely present a clearer picture of cuts in the coming weeks.