Judicial branch budget
The judicial branch budget for fiscal year 2019 was about $144 million. Of that amount, about $107 million is from the state general fund. Kansas courts make up less than 1% of all funds in the state budget.
The balance of the judicial branch budget—about $37 million—comes from grants, pass-through funding, and fees, most of which are collected by courts. However, not all fees that courts collect support court operations. A portion of fees paid to courts, and nearly all fines and forfeitures, go into the state general fund or into other state and local expenditure-specific funds as spelled out in statute.
Each Kansas county pays the operating expenses for its district court, including the cost of maintaining court facilities and providing necessary office supplies and equipment.
Because most district court building and operating expenses are paid for by counties, 91% of the judicial branch budget is used to pay salaries for 267 judges and justices and about 1,600 court employees.
Objective analysis of staffing needs
The judicial branch analyzes court staffing to ensure it’s appropriate for the number of cases courts process.
Initially we measured judge and court clerk office staffing compared to caseloads for individual courts. Then, we took a comprehensive look at the level of all staffing needed for Kansas courts to provide efficient, effective, and timely service using a zero-based approach backed by as much empirical justification as possible.
Data from these analyses allow the Supreme Court to make objective decisions regarding staffing needs for the judicial branch.
Classification and compensation study
In addition to the objective analysis of staffing needs, we secured a grant for a project to study classification and compensation for Kansas court employees and district magistrate judges. The initial studies in 2016 looked at compensation for district magistrate judges and for court employees, including court services officers, court administrators, clerks, and more. A report that updated employee compensation data was published in 2017, and an updated study for employee compensation was completed in 2018.
Classification and compensation study
In fiscal year 2018, judicial branch employees welcomed a 2.5% salary increase. For fiscal year 2019, the Legislature appropriated a much-needed 5% increase to the pool of funds used to compensate employees. These new funds then were allocated among employee classes based on an updated salary study. Each employee received at least a 2.5% increase, but more is needed. That same fiscal year, judges and justices received a 2% salary increase. In fiscal year 2020, judicial branch employees, judges, and justices received a 2.5% salary increase.
Kansas judges are paid well below what their counterparts earn in the public and private sectors. Even with these increases, Kansas district judge salaries rank next to last (49th out of the 50 states). This is according to the National Center for State Court’s July 1, 2019, report, “Survey of Judicial Salaries.”
Budget supplement for fiscal year 2021
The judicial branch budget for fiscal year 2021 includes an $18.3 million supplement to fund salary increases for judges and employees, and to fund new positions.
The supplemental funding will allow for:
increasing salaries for employees to market levels identified in the updated salary study;
raising pay for district judges up to an average of the neighboring states of Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma;
raising pay for appellate court judges and district magistrate judges by the same percentage as the increase for district judges; and
adding judges and staff where they are justified by weighted caseload data.