Collection of Consolidated Court Cost Fees

March 12, 2015
By Paul K. Emerson, TAC State Financial Analyst
Legislative News

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This report examines the mechanics of the consolidated court cost fee system by focusing on revenues that are generated from certain criminal convictions as defined in Local Government Code, §133.102.  In addition, it takes an in-depth look at how much money flows into the various accounts, in particular, Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (LEOS), designated as account 116 in the Comptroller’s Manual of Accounts.

Generally, Local Government Code, §133.102 allows counties and cities to retain 10 percent of those fees collected as a service fee, while the remaining portion is remitted to the Comptroller’s office on a quarterly basis and deposited into 14 special accounts, as detailed in this table

Most of these special accounts are General Revenue-Dedicated (GR-D), and several are used to certify the state’s budget. For the 2012-2013 biennium, for example, the state used approximately $4.9 billion in dedicated funds to balance the budget. This past session, the Legislature made a concerted effort to reduce its reliance on GR-D accounts, using $4.1 billion to certify the current state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

Funds Generated from Consolidated Court Cost Fees (Criminal Convictions)

Information recently obtained from the Comptroller’s office shows that approximately $404.4 million in consolidated criminal court cost fees were collected statewide during fiscal years 2012-13, as shown below. This amount does not include all criminal court cost fees collected. It only reflects those fees collected pursuant to Section 133.102 of the Local Government Code. These funds are allocated on a percentage basis to specific GR-D accounts, and several of these accounts are significant to county and city law enforcement agencies – like the LEOS account, which provides funding to ensure that proper training and continuing education requirements are provided to sheriffs, constables and municipal police officers across the state.
 
Collection of Consolidated Court Costs
FY2012 FY2013 Total
$213,884,498 $190,507,969 $404,392,467
FY2010 FY2011  
$198,191,089 $191,264,840 $389,445,929
FY2008 FY2009  
$209,889,987 $201,150,398 $411,040,385
FY2006 FY2007  
$206,423,328 $208,569,656 $414,992,984
 
The LEOS account percentage allocation is 5.0034 of the total consolidated criminal court cost fees collected. This percentage may vary depending on prior collections. In fiscal years 2014-15, $5.7 million of LEOS funding was used to balance the state budget, while $25.3 million was used the previous biennium (2012-13).
 
With the gloomy economy in 2011, certain local programs were not funded with LEOS funds – mainly the continuing education for local law enforcement officers in fiscal years 2012-13. It was not until this past legislative session that the funding of $6 million per year was restored.  These funds are pass-thru grants from the Comptroller’s Office. A portion of the LEOS funds ($2.6 million per year) also funds the newly renamed the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE).1  

How are LEOS Funds Distributed?

Local Government Code, §133.102 (f)(1), states that one-third of the money that is allocated to the LEOS fund must be set-aside to pay for the commission’s administrative expenses. This represents the $2.6 million per year.
The remaining portion may be used only to pay expenses related to continuing education for persons licensed under the Occupation Code, §1701.157. This particular section of the statute affects the LEOS funding that is used by city and county law enforcement departments. The Comptroller’s Office is appropriated $6 million per year, which is disbursed to local law enforcement agencies based on the following formula:

(a) 20 percent of the money is allocated to all local law enforcement agencies in the
state in equal shares. (Relative to the number of law enforcement agencies.)
(b) 80 percent of the money is allocated to all local law enforcement agencies in the state in a share representing a fixed amount for each position in that agency. (Relative to the number of law enforcement officers.)
 
The table below illustrates how the funds were distributed under the Occupation Code, §1701.157 for fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
 
Fiscal Year Amount Distributed Number of Agencies Funded Money Allocated Per Agency  (As cited in A) Number of Officers Funded Money Allocated Per Officer (As cited in B)
2010 $6,000,000 2,092 $573 69,719 $69
2011 $6,000,000 2,089 $574 72.787 $66

Source: Comptroller of Public Accounts
 
View the flowchart of the revenue allocation process.
                  
The information represented in some of the tables were requested and provided as a courtesy from the Comptroller’s Office, but the data does not reflect any official or finalized reporting from the Comptroller of Public Accounts.



SB 686, 83rd Legislative, Regular Session, abolished the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education and created the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, effective January 1, 2014.