Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sikeston vs Ferguson

Like many local government officials, I have watched recent events in Ferguson and tried to learn from them. One of the criticisms leveled against the City of Ferguson is that the municipal court was used primarily as a revenue generator, rather than as a means to administer justice. The US Department of Justice found that in fiscal year 2013, Ferguson collected $2,460,000 in municipal court fines and fees. For comparison, in fiscal year 2013, Sikeston collected only $380,000 in municipal court fines and fees. Ferguson's court fines and fees accounted for approximately 23% of their city revenues. Sikeston's court fines and fees accounted for about 2.6% of our city revenues. And the bottom line is that Sikeston's municipal court in fiscal year 2015 is only projected to bring in $42,000 more than is spent on court operations - meaning that the court is in no way a cash cow for the city. I am glad that our friends in Ferguson seem to be on the road to healing, but it's also worth pointing out that the problems in Ferguson are not endemic to city municipal courts everywhere - especially not in Sikeston.