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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

Original Author: Darden, Ron
Date of Material: 06/01/2012

Fines and court costs
Fines and court costs--Municipal ordinances

City of Tracy City Court Cost Computations and an Ordinance Establishing City Court Costs

Reviewed Date: 07/27/2021
This report outlines a method for calculating municipal court costs using audited data, pay records, and reasonable estimates, plus, an ordinance establishing city court costs, including cash bond forfeiture fee and a city litigation tax.

City of Tracy City
Court Cost Computations
By Ron Darden, MTAS Municipal Management Consultant
June 1, 2012

I. Background

The city court meets six (6) times per year with the city recorder, a city clerk, a court officer and city judge. The court heard approximately 314 cases during 2011. Court costs have not been established by ordinance. The accounting system does not break out court costs from other general government expenses. Basing court costs on what other cities or general sessions court charges is not a reasonable method of determining the actual costs for Tracy City’s court system. This report will outline a method for calculating municipal court costs using audited data, pay records and reasonable estimates.

II. Direct Court Expenses

Clerical staff (sal. + S.S.) $7,641.10
City Recorder (6 appear. @ $15.52/hr.+SS.) 200.48
Staff training (estimated) 600.00
Judge’s compensation 1,950.00
Judge’s training (estimated) 300.00
Court officer ($15/hr. x 2hrs x 6 per year) 180.00
Court Software (annual cost) 740.00
Docket books (estimated) 250.00
Total Estimated Direct Cost $11,861.58

III. Indirect Court Expenses

Many of the court costs are indirect expenses included in the city’s general government account of the general fund such as liability insurance, computer equipment, telephones, office hearing and cooling, postage stamps, office supplies, etc. The city’s general government account for 2011 totaled $54,786.00 and it included the above direct court expenses of $11,861.58. In order to establish indirect costs, remove the direct cost ($54,786.00-$11,861.58) from the general government account. This leaves an adjusted general government account balance of $42,911.42. Since costs are not separated in the accounting system, an estimate of 10 percent of the general government account is estimated to be for indirect court expenses or $4,291.14.

IV. Court Cost Computations

Local direct court cost (see II above) $11,861.58
Indirect court cost (see III above) 4,291.14
Total Estimated Annual Court Cost $16,152.72

($16,152.72/314 cases=$51.44 per case)

Local court cost $51.48
Special Court Cost 10.00
State Litigation tax 13.75
Local Litigation tax 13.75
Court training fee 1.00
Total Court Cost $89.98

V. Summary

The city needs to pass an ordinance establishing reasonable court cost. The above represents a reasonable method for establishing court costs. The computations will need to be reviewed on an annual basis. The city also needs to adopt by ordinance a local litigation tax of $13. 75. This is in addition to the state’s litigation tax of $13.75. A local litigation tax is a way for users of the court to pay part of the cost of using the court instead of tax payers. An ordinance needs to appoint a court clerk and an assessment needs to be made as to the need for two court clerks. The ordinance recommended by Court Consultant Karen Beyke is reasonable and should be adopted. I do recommend an amendment that designates a city court clerk.

Ordinance No.

An Ordinance Establishing City Court Costs, Including Cash Bond Forfeiture Fee and a City Litigation Tax

Whereas, regulations require that municipal courts establish reasonable court costs by ordinance, now therefore, Be It Ordained by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the Town of Tracy City, Tennessee, that:

Section 1. Section 3-202 of the Town of Tracy City Municipal Code, Imposition of penalties and costs, is amended by deleting the second sentence that reads, “in all cases heard or determined by him, the town judge shall tax in the bill of costs the same amounts and for the same items allowed in courts of general sessions for similar work in state cases.” The following shall be substituted in lieu thereof:

“In all cases heard and determined by the city judge, the following court costs shall be imposed:

Court costs in all cases, unless otherwise provided, shall be $118.23. Such court cost shall include other statutorily authorized fees, such as interest, litigation tax that may be legally assessed.

State litigation tax of $13.75.

Local Litigation tax of $13.75

Cash bond forfeiture fee $13.75

Continuance fee of $5.00 each (after the first free continuance)

Litigation tax for public parking space violation $1.00

One dollar ($1.00) of the court costs in each case shall be forwarded by the court clerk to the state treasurer to be used by the administrative office of the courts for training and continuing education courses for municipal court judges and municipal court clerks pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated 16-18-305(b).

Section 2. Such court costs shall be determined in accordance with “Exhibit A” attached, and shall be amended by ordinance from time to time to reflect reasonable court costs.

Section 3. Date of effect. This ordinance shall be effective upon its final passage, the public welfare requiring it.


Passed 1st and final reading________________________



_____________________________ _________________________________________

Mayor Attest: City Recorder

Main Document(s):
file Ordinance establishing court costs.pdf
file Court Cost Computations.pdf