OFFICE OF FISCAL ANALYSIS

Legislative Office Building, Room 5200

Hartford, CT 06106 (860) 240-0200

http: //www. cga. ct. gov/ofa

sHB-6385

AN ACT CONCERNING REFORM OF THE PROBATE COURT SYSTEM.

OFA Fiscal Note

State Impact:

Agency Affected

Fund-Effect

FY 10 $

FY 11 $

Probate Court

PCAF - See Below

See Below

See Below

Probate Court

Probate Judges' and Employees' Retirement Fund - See Below

See Below

See Below

Note: PCAF=Probate Court Administration Fund

Municipal Impact:

Municipalities

Effect

FY 10 $

FY 11 $

Various Municipalities

See Below

See Below

See Below

Explanation

The bill makes a number of significant changes to the composition and structure of the probate court system and the Probate Court Administration, effective January 5, 2011. This is estimated to result in a savings to the Probate Court Administration Fund (PCAF) of $5. 5-$6. 0 million in FY 12, and $11. 0-$12. 0 million annually thereafter. The PCAF is currently projected to experience a negative balance of $3. 9 million in FY 10, $12. 2 million in FY 11, and $20. 1 million in FY 12. Anticipated savings under the bill would not offset entirely the projected negative balances through FY 14, and it is estimated that the bill would not result in a positive balance to the fund until FY 15.

Section 1 reduces the number of probate courts in the state from 117 to 36 based on current state senatorial districts. This is estimated to result in a savings of $11. 1 million to the probate court system, including savings from clerk and assistant clerk salaries ($6. 9 million), operating expenses ($2. 0 million), and health care costs ($2. 2 million).

It is estimated that the establishment of an additional 12-15 court facilities would be necessary under the bill in order to accommodate the increase in court traffic and workload that will be experienced by the remaining districts which are not large enough to accommodate the increase in workload. This is estimated to cost $2. 0-$3. 0 million in the first year of implementation, though this cost would subsequently drop to $1. 0-$1. 5 million annually as one-time renovations are completed and only lease/rental costs remain. Under CGS 45a-8, municipalities comprising probate districts are required to provide suitable probate court facilities, and as a result these costs would be borne by municipalities within any such district. These costs would be partially offset, however, by a potential savings due to the division of costs among a wider pool of towns.

Section 4 alters probate judges' annual salary range to between $80,000 and $110,000 based on weighted workload (the average probate judge's annual compensation is currently approximately $62,000). It is anticipated that due to consolidation and concentration of workload, the majority of judges will be eligible for the maximum $110,000 salary. Although many judges will be at the maximum salary, the reduced number of judges would result in an estimated savings of $3. 3 million annually.

Sections 8 and 9 centralize the budget function of the probate court system within the Probate Court Administration. This is estimated to result in a savings of $300,000-$350,000 to the probate court system, and $135,000 to the Probate Court Administration which currently allocates that amount to annual court audits.

Section 12 eliminates a 4-year retirement credit to probate judges whose districts are merged and who have not been elected subsequently. To the extent that probate judges would have been eligible for and utilized this credit in the future, there is a savings to the Probate Judges' and Employees' Retirement Fund.

The Out Years

The bill results in a reduction of the negative PCAF fund balance beginning in FY 12. Due to the accumulation of projected negative balances from FY 10 to FY 12, however, the bill is not anticipated to result in a positive fund balance until FY 15.

Sources:

2007 Probate Court Financial Data