Growing demographic impact on the courts, the city | New


The US 2020 Census Bureau report showed a population growth for Cleveland of 39,773 people who will use more resources – ranging from water, roads and emergency response to the justice system.

According to city and county officials, the growth is something every entity has been feeling for some time as it prepares for more people to choose to call the county home in one city or another.

Norman showed an additional 17,101 people from 2010 to 2020, while Moore saw 7,712 people added to his population.

The two cities accounted for nearly half of the county’s overall population growth.

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman said the courthouse has been feeling the pinch in courtroom space, caseload and staff for years, despite being granted a fourth district judge in 2014.

“We are the third most populous county in the state,” Balkman said. “We have a high caseload and therefore we believe we would deserve to have an additional special judge assigned or created for Cleveland County.

“These are created by law. “

He doesn’t expect this to happen anytime soon for a number of reasons.

“It is also a monetary decision. You are talking about the salary of a judge, a bailiff, a secretary’s post and, most likely, an additional court reporter, ”he said. “The other practical aspect is that you have to have space for it – a courtroom and rooms.

“As things stand, the [Cleveland] County commissioners have told us they are considering expanding the county office or renovating and reassigning – they are certainly willing to allocate additional space, if we need it. “

According to research from the National Center for State Courts, a benchmark population-to-judge ratio is 13,000 to 15,000 residents. In Cleveland County, there are more than twice as many residents as the ratio recommends, according to U.S. Census data.

City court administrator Ronda Guerrero said her court’s workload has fluctuated over the years, with a drop in court citations in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adapting to the ups and downs, Guerrero said technology and training have been key in dealing with them.

“The court’s goal will always be to provide prompt and professional customer service to the citizens of Norman,” Guerrero said. “The evolution of court software has made it possible to provide an even more efficient court when it comes to subpoena processing.

“Technology is a key factor and, for this reason, will continue to be one of the greatest needs of the court. There will always be recurring maintenance, upgrades and training to keep the field moving forward and the staff to be competent. “

City Manager Darrell Pyle said the census report came as no surprise as the city strives to increase sales tax revenue – the only source of revenue for a municipality in the state other than federal grants.

The census report partly determines the amount of money the city receives in grant funds.

“Since the population is growing fairly steadily, we won’t really be maneuvering much, just based on the published numbers that we’ve been backing from the start. Those [census] numbers help us when it comes to how state and federal dollars are sometimes distributed which is why it is so important for us to factor these University of Oklahoma students into our counts, ”Pyle said. ” I miss them [in the count] and we lose for 10 years.

Several staff and councilors have said the staff level in the city is about 50% of what it could be for the population it serves.

Pyle said staff are monitoring the number of employees, especially for required metrics such as the number of agents per 1,000 population, but at the end of the fiscal year it all depends on how much money the city has. in the bank.

“Staffing is largely dependent on the ability to pay from our general fund,” he said.

Population growth also means increased demand for the city’s water infrastructure, but staff are constrained by revenue from special funds to expand it.

“Our corporate funds are ‘stand-alone’ but require voter approval for a rate hike, so this is our biggest limiting factor in water, sewage and solid waste endowment,” Pyle said.

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