Commissioner’s Budget Meeting hears Budget Request from District Attorney

Published 10:02 pm Monday, June 3, 2024

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The Sumter County Commissioners held a budget meeting at 5 PM May 28. District Attorney Lewis Lamb addressed the Board on the budgetary needs of the Southwestern Circuit, which covers six counties. He referenced a request to Sumter County for a $50,000 increase on the Superior Court budget. The board approved a $20,000 increase.

Lamb stated that he had tried to shave the number down to as small an expense as possible. He mentioned the expense of digitizing files. “All these files that are stored over there in the back half of that building, trying to digitize those files will cost between $25,000 and $30,000.”

Lamb also mentioned that he still needed another victim advocate. He summed up his request. “If there’s room to come closer to that $50,000 increase, then, in the final analysis, it would certainly make our job easier.”

After the meeting, Lamb explained the budgetary needs of the DA’s office, starting with the importance of a victim advocate. He talked about their legal obligation to the victim. “We are required by law to notify the victim of what’s called the Victim’s Bill of Rights.”

Lamb boiled down their duty to the victim. “The victim has a right to be present at any proceeding that may affect the outcome of the case.”

He gave examples like a bail proceeding or a plea hearing. He also mentioned that they had to have someone in court to help the victim understand the proceedings. He talked about the volume of cases. “We have thousands of cases a year.”

Lamb mentioned that the State had passed the Victim Bill of Rights law a few years ago, providing requirements: “It said that the state would provide [a] victim services director for each office. The statute says that they will provide it but the state has never funded a victim services director for each office.”

He detailed the support provided by the state. “The state pays for my assistant district attorneys, and the State provides each DA’s office with two secretaries, one investigator and one victim advocate. That is not enough staffing with the case loads we have.

Lamb mentioned they relied on federal grants to provide victim services, but that spending was being cut at the federal level. “It was $335,000 for the year October 1, 2023 through September 30, 2024. Active October 1rst, it is reduced to $175,000 so the total cut is $160,000.”

He mentioned that while the state still had not funded a victim services director for each office, they did fund a victim advocate to make up for federal cuts. “I’m still about one and a half victim advocates short.”

Lamb expressed appreciation for improvements in funding from Sumter County. “Four years ago, Sumter County was, was significantly under funding the DA’s office, and they’ve made a lot of strides. They’ve raised our budget substantially over the last four years.”

When asked how the cuts would affect victim services he replied: “I hope they don’t affect victim services, it’s more how they’re going to affect my staff.”

“I have a number of. . . staffers, besides my victim advocates who have to assist in providing victim services.”

He mentioned limits in availability. “There’s times that people call the office to talk to victim services, and all the victim advocates are in court.”

Lamb concluded by stating that they did the best they could to meet their obligations.