Three supervisors have expressed reservations about allocating additional county funds for the courts, which have already been given $129 million this year, roughly the same amount they got last year.
The compromise would have increased the courts' total 1996-97 budget beyond $133 million. About $8 million in other projects sought by the courts, such as construction of an airport-style security system at the Central Courthouse, would be pushed back to next year.
Gary Burton, the county's chief financial officer, said the county remains committed to providing the courts with enough money to continue operating through June. But Burton estimated that the court will need at most $2 million, not the $18.9 million to $13.9 million the courts have requested.
Judges have long complained that the courts are being treated like "second-class citizens" by the county. They point out that court funding has remained at austere bankruptcy levels while the district attorney's office and Sheriff's Department budgets have increased substantially.
Millard said Monday that some of the presiding judges asked that the judicial negotiators try again to schedule another round of talks. The judges also plan to meet with their lawyers "to discuss our next approach," Millard said.
If the judges eventually issue a court order, the case would be closely watched by counties across California with similar court funding problems.
The case would center on a state government code section that requires counties to provide the courts with "suitable" facilities and "sufficient attendants, heat, light, furnishings, equipment, stationery, supplies and other personal property for courtrooms and chambers."
Negotiators admit they struggled for weeks--ultimately without success--to agree on the courts' precise needs. "We could never really agree on a definition of 'need,' " Steiner said.