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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.532

Introduced by Committee on Institutions

Date:

Subject:  County courthouses; capital expenditures; use by state courts; assistant judges; authority to borrow

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to direct the state court, district court, and judicial bureau to pay rent for the cost of using a county courthouse; authorize assistant judges to borrow a limited amount for capital construction with authorization from 75 percent of the legislative bodies of the municipalities in the county; authorize assistant judges to request state funds raised through bonding to pay for capital construction required due to a federal or state mandate or to correct a threat to health and safety; and clarify existing provisions of law which authorize a county to create a capital construction reserve fund.

AN ACT RELATING TO OBLIGATIONS OF THE STATE AND COUNTY REGARDING CAPITAL EXPENDITURES ON COUNTY COURTHOUSES

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  24 V.S.A. § 71a(a) is amended to read:

(a)  Except as provided herein, each county shall provide and own a suitable courthouse, pay all utility and custodial services and keep such the courthouse suitably furnished and equipped for use by the superior court and probate court, together with suitable offices for the county clerk, assistant judges, and probate judges.  Office space for the probate court may be provided elsewhere by the county.  Each county shall provide fireproof safes or vaults for the safekeeping of the official files and records required to be kept by county officials, including the files and records of a justice of the peace who has vacated his or her office.  Use of the county courthouse by the supreme court, district court, family court or the judicial bureau may be permitted by the assistant judges when such use does not conflict with the use of the building by the superior court, provided that the office of court administrator shall pay the cost of any such use should the assistant judges choose not to pay the cost by use of county funds.  In this case, the court administrator shall pay the county a percentage of the cost of operations, debt service, and depreciation equal to the percentage of square footage of the building used by the state courts. 

Sec. 2.  24 V.S.A. § 84 is added to read:

§ 84.  AUTHORITY TO BORROW

The assistant judges may borrow for capital improvements without putting the matter before the voters, provided:

(1)  the terms of the loan require that it be paid back no more than 10 years from the date of execution;

(2)  the annual debt service payment, for all loans combined, is no greater than 15 percent of the revenues raised from taxes in the year before the loan is made; and

(3)  the legislative bodies of at least 75 percent of the municipalities in the county approve, by majority vote.

Sec. 3.  24 V.S.A. § 85 is added to read:

§ 85.  ESSENTIAL CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

(a)  In this section, an “essential construction project” is a project which is necessary due to a federal or state requirement or a project created by unanticipated circumstances or events which create a threat to the safety and health of those using the building.

(b)  When capital construction is an essential construction project, the assistant judges may request state assistance by submitting preliminary plans and cost estimates to the administrator of the supreme court who may include it in the budget request made to the commissioner of finance and management pursuant to 32 V.S.A. § 301.  The commissioner shall include the project in the annual capital budget request made under 32 V.S.A. § 309.

Sec. 4.  24  V.S.A. § 133(e) is amended and (i) and (j) are added to read:

(e)  The proposed budget shall contain any cost estimates and preliminary plans for capital construction in the county pursuant to subchapter 2 of chapter 3 of this title, estimates of the indebtedness of the county, estimates of the probable ordinary expenses of the county for the ensuing year, and any and all other expenses and obligations of the county.  The budget may contain provision for additions to a reserve fund and the accumulated total reserve fund shall not at any time exceed an amount equal to ten percent of the current budget presented.  Pursuant to a capital program, as described in section 4426 of this title, the budget may also include a provision for a separate reserve fund for capital construction, reconstruction, remodeling, repairs, renovation, design, or redesign which shall not at any time exceed an amount equal to 50 percent of the current budget presented. However, if capital construction, reconstruction, remodeling, repairs, renovation, design, or redesign is necessitated by an insured loss or damage to a county building, the separate reserve fund may also include the amount of insurance proceeds received as a result of the loss or damage.  All county budgets shall be presented on the form prescribed by the auditor of accounts, after consultation with the association of assistant judges, and shall include the amounts currently budgeted for each item included in the proposed budget.

(i)  Of unencumbered funds remaining at the close of a fiscal year, an amount equal to up to 10 percent of the current budget presented may be expended in the next fiscal year.      

(j)  Pursuant to a capital program, as described in section 4430 of this title, a proposed budget may also include a provision for a separate capital program reserve fund for capital construction, reconstruction, remodeling, repairs, renovation, design, or redesign.  The amount deposited into the capital program reserve fund in one year shall not be greater than 10 percent of the previous year’s operating budget, and the total amount in the fund shall not at any time exceed an amount equal to 50 percent of the previous year’s operating budget.  However, if capital construction, reconstruction, remodeling, repairs, renovation, design, or redesign is necessitated by an insured loss or damage to a county building, the separate reserve fund may also include the amount of insurance proceeds received as a result of the loss or damage.

Sec. 5.  EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect for FY2009.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us