SALT LAKE CITY -- Layton may lose its courthouse. That is just one of many suggestions being considered by members of the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Joint Appropriations Subcommittee.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, suggested state court administrators consider the move as part of a proposed 7 percent budget cut.
Dan Becker, state court administrator at the administrative office of the courts, said court officials considered consolidating or closing courthouses a year ago.
But court officials will consider it again, Becker said in Wednesday's committee meeting.
The state would save $3 million if 10 courts were closed or consolidated, he said. But staff would have to find ways to cut another $4.5 million to meet the 7 percent budget cut goal.
"It will not be a popular decision, not with law enforcement or the public," Becker said.
It may be a little easier for the public to accept the closing of some of the 41 courthouses across the state now that the state has an electronic filing system, he said.
Ray made the suggestion to close the Layton courthouse in 2nd District Court because Davis County has courthouses in Bountiful and Farmington.
Davis Sheriff Todd Richardson said if the state closed the Layton courthouse, it could save Davis County funds because the sheriff's office would no longer be required to transport jail inmates from Farmington to Layton.
But because the move would shift cases to Farmington, Davis sheriff's officers would still be used for court security. The county already provides security for the Layton courthouse under a state contract.
Ray said there is really no room in any agency, including the courts, to make any substantial cuts, but he would prefer to see no cuts made for those who fight crime on the front lines.
He does not want to see public safety's budget get cut any more. "We can't afford it."
Any more cuts to public safety will have an impact on the number of Utah Highway Patrol troopers on the highways, Ray said, "and that will increase the number of fatalities."
Department of Public Safety Commissioner D. Lance Davenport said his department's budget is already running lean.
Cuts would also affect other areas in the department, such as the state crime lab and the investigation bureau, he said.
"We cannot give a haircut here. There are no more areas to trim."
Ray said even the attorney general's office cannot afford any more cuts. The office aggressively prosecuted white-collar crimes, such as fraud and identity theft, bringing funds back to the state.
Ray said if proposed cuts go through, the Department of Corrections may have to release prison inmates early.
It also could mean jails, like Davis County, would receive fewer inmates because the state will not be able to pay the counties to house state prisoners.
Right now, according to Gov. Gary Herbert's proposed budget, the Department of Corrections would receive an increase of $4.9 million for the jail contracting program, said Steven Gehrke, department spokesman.
"That would allow us to send a larger number of state prisoners to the 21 county jails we contract with on an ongoing basis," Gehrke said.
But if cuts are made, the state would no longer be able to send prison inmates to the jails.
Richardson said if the state does cut back, that would free up bed space, allowing the jail to house more federal prisoners. The state currently pays the county $45 per day per inmate. The federal program pays $70 a day per inmate.
The committee meets again at 8 a.m. Friday to further discuss the budgets of several agencies, including courts, public safety, corrections and the Division of Juvenile Justice System.