- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A new report by a group that supports government consolidation is calling for major changes to the ways municipal courts in St. Louis County boost city revenue by relying on traffic fines.

Nonprofit group Better Together is recommending that cities pool money collected from traffic court while capping the amount they can keep from such fines at 10 percent. Current Missouri law requires amounts above 30 percent to go to the state, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1stRNSL ) reported.

The Better Together report comes after Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich announced an inquiry in the finances of 10 municipal courts statewide, including Ferguson and four others in St. Louis County. The added scrutiny follows the police shooting death of Michael Brown in north St. Louis County.

Deputy Director Richard Sheets of the Missouri Municipal League said cutting the cap to 10 percent would be a move “we’d be very opposed to.”

“Most of our courts work, and most of our courts are well below the 30 percent,” he said. “I think it’s just unreasonable and a knee jerk reaction and not warranted at all.”

Sheets said most cities were following the 30 percent rule and that they were being faulted from the “two or three” that aren’t.

The report said that St. Louis County has too many municipal courts to govern. It noted that the presiding judge of St. Louis County Circuit Court oversees 81 municipal courts, which is more than 10 times the number of courts as an average judge in Missouri.

The report also found that the average municipal court in St. Louis County reaps in more than $700,000 a year but costs less than a third of that to operate.

Better Together formed in November 2013 by the nonprofit Missouri Council for a Better Economy.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com


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