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COVID-19 to blame for layoffs, furloughs at Polk Co. court clerk’s office, clerk says

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BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) – With fewer lawsuits filed, cases being heard, and overall activity in the courthouse, the Polk County Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court found itself in a $1.6 million hole, according to the court clerk.

“These drastic cost reduction measures are unavoidable,” said Stacy Butterfield, the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller.

Butterfield tells 8 On Your Side the way court clerk’s offices are funded is unique.

The revenue comes from fees, fines, and court costs. Those are all things that significantly dropped during the pandemic era.

“It’s basically, kind of think of it as paycheck to paycheck. The money that comes in our office, runs our office. When that money dropped, we don’t have the funds,” she said.

Butterfield laid off 20 people last week, which adds to an existing 21 jobs lost through other means since March.

For at least the next several months, 200 employees will be furloughed one day a week.

“Any job in the court system – everything from our call center person answering the phone calls, our people taking the payments, our customer service folks that were working to help those that came in our office and all of those started last week,” said Butterfield.

The clerk’s office will now be closed on Fridays.

“You can’t come here to file an injunction for protection. You can’t come here to make payments. You can’t come here to get certified copies of records that you may need,” said Butterfield.

Court hearings and proceedings will continue as scheduled on Fridays, according to Butterfield.

Butterfield said she had to cut the $1.6 million in the budget before the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

She’s hoping to return to normal October 1.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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