In large organizations, sometimes it’s difficult to track the consequences of your decisions. Memos and meetings and directives are supposed to improve operations, not result in some feeble ‘Version 2.0’ of the existing status quo.
Like banks and insurance companies and manufacturing firms, the state Legislature is a complex organization, too. You hope your research and your votes will make a positive difference in your community.
I’m happy to say that in one very high-profile instance, this is precisely the case.
Public Act 09-114 called for a plan to reduce the total number of probate courts, eventually resulting in a consolidation of 117 court districts into 54. The legislation also changed the method of compensation for probate court judges to a system calculated according to population annual workload, with a cap at 75 percent of the annual salary for a Superior Court judge. It also increased the minimum operating hours of probate courts from 20 to 40 per week.
Why the need for change? Well, Connecticut’s probate court system really hadn’t changed since its formal inception in 1716—almost 300 years ago! About the only thing they had done away with were hitching posts and quill pens.
Now a new report is out which shows that this policy initiative to consolidate and streamline our state probate court system has resulted in the first probate court system budget surplus in six years, returning $5.4 million to the General Fund.
Probate Court Administrator Judge Paul J. Knierim issued a report projecting $1.6 million in savings for the probate court system in the 2010-2011 fiscal year which ended June 30, on top of an operating surplus of $4.7 million.
Judge Knierim also predicted transferring $5.4 million to the state’s General Fund on July 1, and he projected a further savings of $3.5 million in the current 2011-2012 fiscal year.
As you can imagine, any time you can streamline a state or local operation and maintain the service while saving taxpayer dollars, it should be done (I have not heard of one instance where probate court services were either reduced or denied to anyone.) This is the type of consolidation we should be doing more of in Connecticut, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, considering the current economic climate.
For your information, the Norwalk-Wilton Probate District is located in Norwalk City Hall, 125 East Ave. The Darien-New Canaan Probate District is located in Darien Town Hall, 2 Renshaw Rd. Both are open Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can reach Norwalk-Wilton at (203) 854-7737 and Darien-New Canaan at (203) 656-7342.