By Tim Leeds
The city of Havre will once again have a full-time city court judge, effective Nov. 1.
The City Council approved a budget amendment Monday to restore Judge Joyce Perszyk's 40-hour work week.
City Clerk Lowell Swenson said the city received some unexpected revenue from the state that can be used to fund the city judge's position. The city found out in September that the federal domestic abuse grant that had been paying part of the judge's salary had not been renewed. The Encourage Arrest Policies grant, dispersed by the U.S. Department of Justice's Violence Against Women program, had paid for 12 of the judge's full-time hours.
When the cutback was announced, Perszyk said she would have to reschedule a lot of trials.
She said today that because of the nature of her job and the difficulty of rescheduling trials, she hasn't really gone to part time anyway.
"I really never got any time off, I just got less pay," she said today.
Rescheduling a trial takes more than rescheduling the judge, she added. The trial has to work around the schedules of the prosecuting and defending attorneys as well.
Perszyk, who is running for re-election this year, said she hasn't even had time to campaign.
"(Losing hours) couldn't have been at a worse time," she said. She faces lawyer Carl White in the Nov. 6 city election.
Swenson said the city received a check in July from some revenue sources that had accrued in the previous fiscal year. Because those sources had been eliminated by House Bill 124 in the 2001 legislative session, the city had not expected to receive any more money from those sources after the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
"Apparently some of this money had accrued in June," Swenson said. "We didn't expect to get any of that."
Part of the money the city received from those sources, including beer and wine and liquor revenue, was used to restore Perszyk's hours, he said.
Swenson said the full-time hours for the city judge could be budgeted for in the future. He said that since the budget was already set when the city was notified the grant was not renewed, it took a public hearing and a budget amendment to adjust the hours this year.
"If we had known the grant wasn't going to be renewed in August, we could have budgeted for it then," he added.
Swenson said the competition for the Encourage Arrest Policies grant is becoming much stiffer, which apparently led to Havre's grant not being renewed.
"More people are putting in for grant money and less is available," he said.
The city does use grants for other projects, Swenson said, but most are annual grants or project-specific grants. He said he is not concerned about losing other grants for the city.
"This was the only one that really hinged from year to year for renewal," he said.