OFFICE OF FISCAL ANALYSIS

Legislative Office Building, Room 5200

Hartford, CT 06106 (860) 240-0200

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

HB-6385

AN ACT CONCERNING REFORM OF THE PROBATE COURT SYSTEM.

AMENDMENT

LCO No.: 7489

File Copy No.: 729

House Calendar No.: 474

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

Potential Savings

See Below

See Below

Explanation

The amendment eliminates the original bill and associated fiscal impact.

The amendment is estimated to result in a savings to the Probate Court Administration Fund (PCAF) of $4.4 million-$5.1 million in FY 11, and $8.8 million-$10.2 million annually thereafter1. The amendment is also projected to result in an increased liability of $700, 000-$1.1 million to the Probate Judges' and Employees' Retirement Fund2 resulting from retirement credits associated with court consolidations, as well as an annualized cost of $3.6 million-$3.8 million to the General Fund beginning in FY 12 associated with transfers to the Probate Judges' and Employees' Retirement Fund for retiree health care premiums.

The PCAF is currently projected to experience a deficit of $2.9 million in FY 10, $12.6 million in FY 11, and $23.2 million in FY 123. Under the amendment, it is estimated that the deficits in FY 11 and FY 12 would be reduced to $9.8 million-$10.3 million and $3.2 million-$5.1 million, respectively, and would be entirely offset in FY 13. It is estimated that significant surpluses would occur in FY 14 and continue annually thereafter.

Overall savings to the PCAF are partially attributable to the reduction in court costs of up to $8.0 million-$8.9 million resulting from consolidations. These savings include clerk and assistant clerk salaries ($4.5 million-$5.2 million) , operating expenses ($1.7 million-$1.8 million) , and health care costs ($1.8 million-$1.9 million) 4. There is also a potential savings to municipalities as the costs of court facilities and amenities that are currently paid by towns under CGS 45a-8 are distributed among a wider pool.

The above fiscal impact is a result of a number of changes to the probate court system, including centralized budgeting, retirement benefit funding and credits, judges' compensation structure, probate appeals and hearings, and the establishment of a commission charged with developing a plan for the redistricting and consolidation of probate districts from 117 to between 44 and 50.

Sections 3 and 11 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 5 eliminates payments made to any judge who leaves office or dies in office for work performed while in office; such payments totaled $106, 000 in calendar year 20075. This section applies only to judges elected to office on and after January 5, 2011. To the extent that payments that would have been made under this section are eliminated in the future, there is a savings to the PCAF.

Section 6 requires that, beginning in FY 12, the Treasurer transfer annually from the General Fund the amount of retiree health care premiums paid from the Probate Judges' and Employees' Retirement Fund for the previous calendar year. This is estimated to result in a cost of $3.6 million-$3.8 million in FY 12 to the General Fund, and a corresponding savings to the Probate Judges' and Employees' Retirement Fund. This fiscal impact would continue into the future subject to inflation.

Section 9 eliminates an existing 4-year retirement credit to probate judges whose districts are merged and who have not been elected subsequently, effective January 5, 2011. As the consolidations mandated under the amendment will occur before this effective date, there is an increased liability of $700, 000-$1.1 million to the Probate Judges' and Employees' Retirement Fund associated with this credit. To the extent that probate judges would have been eligible for and would have utilized this credit after January 5, 2011, there is a savings to the Probate Judges' and Employees' Retirement Fund.

Sections 12 and 13 establish a range of salaries for probate judges from $66, 051 to $110, 085 depending on district population and weighted work load of the court. The average compensation of a probate judge is currently $62, 000 annually. Although judges' salaries will be higher on average under the amendment, the reduction in the overall number of judges is estimated to result in a savings to the PCAF of $2.9 million-$3.4 million annually.

Section 14 allows a special assignment judge to be assigned, at the discretion of the Superior Court, to hear probate appeals. Special assignment judges are currently paid $50 per hour up to a maximum of $250 per day from the PCAF for their services. To the extent that there is an increase in utilization of these judges as a result of the amendment, there is a potential cost to the PCAF. Any workload decrease to the Superior Court under this section would have no fiscal impact to the Judicial Department.

Sections 18 and 19 establish probate magistrates and attorney probate referees for various purposes enumerated in the amendment. The amendment specifies that probate magistrates be paid $50 per hour up to a maximum of $250 per day from the PCAF for their services; it also specifies that attorney probate referees receive no compensation for their services. To the extent that such magistrates are utilized, there is a potential cost to the PCAF.

Sections 21 and 22 establish a redistricting commission charged with developing a court consolidation plan satisfying various enumerated criteria which is to be submitted to the General Assembly and Governor for final approval. The amendment permits members of the General Assembly to participate on the task force, which would result in a cost of 55 cents per mile to the Office of Legislative Management (OLM) for legislators participating on the task force. The amendment also requires that a special legislative session be convened to consider the plan submitted by the redistricting commission, which would result in a cost to OLM of approximately $11, 000 per day associated with mileage reimbursement for legislators, sessional staff, overtime for police, and printing costs.

The preceding Fiscal Impact statement is prepared for the benefit of the members of the General Assembly, solely for the purposes of information, summarization and explanation and does not represent the intent of the General Assembly or either chamber thereof for any purpose. In general, fiscal impacts are based upon a variety of informational sources, including the analyst's professional knowledge. Whenever applicable, agency data is consulted as part of the analysis, however final products do not necessarily reflect an assessment from any specific department.

1 Savings are contingent upon passage of the consolidation plan established by the redistricting commission in Sections 21 and 22 of the amendment.

2 The effect of this increased liability will be mitigated in the out years due to fewer judges being eligible for retirement benefits as a result of the court consolidations pursuant to Sections 21 and 22 of the amendment.

3 Figures are based on sHB 6365, the budget bill as favorably reported by the Appropriations Committee.

4 This assumes a reduction in salary, operating expense, and health care costs commensurate with the proportion of courts reduced as compared to the current number of courts.

5 This is the last year for which complete, audited probate financial data is available.