The number of criminal cases heard by Portage County Municipal Court judges in 2016 fell by more than 2,100 from the previous year, with a subsequent decrease in proceeds from court costs and fees of nearly $267,000.
A total of 28,389 criminal and traffic cases were filed in 2016 in the Portage County Municipal Court's two divisions. Another 4,926 civil cases were placed on the court's dockets last year. A total of $4,630,938 in court costs and receipts were collected by the court's clerks over the year.
Judge Kevin Poland heard cases in the Ravenna division from January to June 2016 before taking over in the Kent division for Judge Mark Fankhauser, who moved to the Ravenna division. Judge Barbara Oswick presided in Ravenna all year.
A total of 21,594 cases were filed in the municipal court's Ravenna division in 2016, a decrease of 2,328 from the previous year. Another 3,475 civil cases were filed in that division in 2016, an increase of 53 over 2015.
Court costs and receipts collected from cases in Ravenna totaled $3,382,987 and change in 2016. That's a drop of more than $267,157 from 2015, according to the annual report.
Poland, who served as the municipal court's presiding and administrative judge in 2016 and will once again serve in that role this year, said case volume and receipts are "sort of cyclical." Case volume can depend on law enforcement's focus, for example.
"There's been a different focus at times in traffic enforcement because of drug issues, more resources being used on those avenues," he said. "You look at 2,300 fewer cases in Ravenna, that adds up over a year. If you average $100 in costs per case, it's simply the function of the reduced number of cases."
A total of 6,795 criminal cases were filed in the municipal court's Kent division in 2016, an increase of 216 over 2015's numbers. Another 1,451 civil cases were filed in municipal court in Kent in 2016, a decrease of 127.
The Kent division collected a total of $1,247,951 in 2016, an increase of more than $422 over 2015, according to the annual report.
The $10 million municipal court building in Kent opened in spring 2014, and is approaching its third anniversary.
A special projects fund established in 2006 continues to help pay for the construction and maintenance of the new courthouse.
Payments for the new courthouse are still on the books, thanks to a special fee charged on all municipal court cases that generates more than $500,000 each year. The county also used the $7 million in proceeds from the sale of the county's former nursing home -- the Woodlands at Robinson -- to help pay for the new courthouse.
The money was loaned to the construction project, and to avoid repayment penalties on the bonded debt from the nursing home, the county invested the proceeds into the courthouse project. The municipal court then repaid the general fund using the proceeds of the court fees, plus interest.
"We're funding that, and in fact we're paying more than what we're obligated to pay every year," Poland said. "We're set to pay our agreement, to pay the county X amount of dollars, but the actual payment is a little bit more. We have the ability to make that payment so the county doesn't have to divert other funds, so we try to do that."
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