AL prosecutors concerned about making payroll as pandemic stifles funding

District attorneys ask for supplemental funding

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The stage is set at the legislature for a major funding fight for the next fiscal year, but some district attorneys say they aren’t sure their funding will get them through the fourth quarter.

State prosecutors fund their budgets largely through fees and collections, all of which came to standstill during the pandemic.

“We’re going to have trouble making payroll,” said Montgomery District Attorney Daryl Bailey. “It’s a horrible, horrible way to base a state budget by having to collect money, but that’s what we’ve been given by the legislature. It wasn’t done by this current legislature, this has been going on for years and years.”

In the 15th Judicial Circuit, which covers Montgomery County, those fees account for roughly 40 percent of Bailey’s budget. The county appropriates half, and the state accounts for about 11 percent overall.

Other circuits who receive less money from local governments have already been forced to cut personnel and salaries.

“It sounds like I’m just ringing alarm bell, but it’s really true that we are at a point of potentially shuttering many of our offices statewide,” said Barry Matson with the District Attorney’s Association.

Matson says he’s asking the legislature for a $7 to $8 million supplemental appropriation to cover the remainder of the fiscal year.

“We get about $21 million a year for salaries [from the state],” Matson said. “That’s not even a third of our salaries statewide for all 67 counties in all 42 circuits.”

Prior to the pandemic, Matson said a plan was on the table to gradually increase their state appropriation and phase out fee collection as a funding mechanism. It’s unclear whether that plan is still viable.

“Because we know there’s no way the legislature all of a sudden, overnight can fill 70 percent of funding, that’s just not possible,” Matson said.

Copyright 2020 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.