Aurora City Council moves ahead with new $1 fee to fund courthouse tech

"This isn’t a question about whether or not you need technology in the courts, this is a question about whether or not you put surcharges in place and then just leave them there forever and ever and ever,” Mayor Steve Hogan said. “If the court really needs something that involves technology, I really can’t believe that council is going to say, ‘No, we’re not going to appropriate those monies out of some other budget.’”

AURORA | The price is likely going up for those found guilty of committing assorted driving infractions in Aurora.

The Aurora City Council this week moved forward with a proposal from the city’s top court administrator to increase court surcharges in the city by $1 for people found guilty of a moving violation. The fee could also be added to a few other select violations under city code, according to the proposed ordinance calling for the charge.

The extra buck, which is deemed a “court technology fee,” according to city documents, would go toward the purchase of updated cameras, audio equipment and other gadgets for the court house.

“All we’re going to do is to continue to make sure we’re on the cutting edge, possibly sometimes the bleeding edge, of technology,” Zelda DeBoyes, Aurora’s chief court administrator, said at a city council study session July 10.

If approved at a future council meeting, the proposal calling for the extra dollar would bring the total administration fees imposed by the court to $30, according to DeBoyes. The current $29 fee helps pay for various social programs in the city. Currently, the surcharges are dispensed as follows: $10 for the victim assistance/law enforcement training (VALET) program, $7 for the Aurora for Youth program, $2 for the teen court and $10 for the city’s various NEXUS agencies, such as Comitis Crisis Center. None of the surcharges are currently funneled to implementing new technology at the courthouse, DeBoyes said.

The new fee would net DeBoyes and the city’s court an estimated $51,261 per year, according to city documents. The new ordinance calling for the additional dollar would also provide DeBoyes with a small amount of photo red light revenues each year, which would account for roughly $10,000 of the $51,261 total.

The extra buck will only be tacked onto to the existing surcharges for people found guilty of violating some city codes.

The new money would be used to purchase digital signage for the court rooms, self-service kiosks and a portion of the costs tied to replacing video monitors in the city’s detention center, according to city documents.

But the $1 proposal is just a fraction of what DeBoyes initially asked for. At a meeting of the city’s Public Safety, Courts and Civil Service Committee earlier this month, council members rejected DeBoyes’ request for $20 more in fee increases, which would have brought the total court surcharges in the city to $50. Council members said the request was premature, and asked for additional details on what the charges would fund, what those programs achieve and how many citations the city is handing out, according to city documents.

At the recent study session, no city council members objected to moving the item forward. However, Mayor Steve Hogan, who is not a regular voting member of the council, cautioned his peers about hastily approving the proposed fee.

“This isn’t a question about whether or not you need technology in the courts, this is a question about whether or not you put surcharges in place and then just leave them there forever and ever and ever,” Hogan said. “If the court really needs something that involves technology, I really can’t believe that council is going to say, ‘No, we’re not going to appropriate those monies out of some other budget.’”

But DeBoyes urged council members not to include a sunset provision in the ordinance calling for the new fee. Council members heeded her request.

“Any one little itty bitty clip of footage that we can recover that may stop us from some liabilities would be way beyond what the cost of this is,” Councilwoman Renie Peterson said. “So it makes sense.”