El Paso County’s top prosecutor is asking for money to hire more staff as an increase in felony filings also could lead to new judges being added.
The county’s proposed 2019 budget includes about $325,000 to add eight employees to District Attorney Dan May’s staff. The staff has been “overwhelmed” as law enforcement officers catch more suspects who must be prosecuted, May said Tuesday.
His office also is seeing more juveniles arrested in serious crimes, such as murder and attempted murder, May told county commissioners at a Tuesday budget hearing. The board of commissioners, which got the “preliminary balanced budget” of about $357 million last month, will vote on a final version Nov. 29.
May also is requesting about $137,000 to hire a deputy district attorney for the juvenile department, an investigator and a senior paralegal to begin working for the office next summer.
About $188,000 more would fund five more positions that will be needed if the state adds two District Court judge positions to the 4th Judicial District, May said.
The state Judicial Department might ask the Legislature for money to add one district judge in mid-2019 and another a year later, May said.
To staff the first new court, the county would need to fund two new deputy district attorneys, an investigator, a paralegal and a victim’s advocate, May said. His office also would request more money late next year for staffing at the second new court, he said.
“There is a possibility the Judicial Department will be asking the Legislature next year to add new judgeships in some parts of the state,” department spokesman Jon Sarche said in an email. “However, if the department makes that request, we have not yet determined how many judgeships would be requested and where they would be.”
Fourth Judicial Chief District Judge William Bain declined to comment on the potential funding request.
From fiscal year 2013 to fiscal 2018, the 4th Judicial District had a nearly 12 percent increase in its caseload, from 20,296 to 22,685 cases, according to the Judicial Department. And its criminal caseload increased about 48 percent, from 5,116 to 7,589 cases.
The courthouse now has 22 district judges, 17 of whom supervise felony caseloads.
May said felony filings have risen 44 percent across the state and 48 percent in the county over the past five years, citing a study by the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.
His office’s workload has increased as law enforcement agencies have bolstered their forces, he said.
The Colorado Springs Police Department has hired 21 officers this year, and the city likely will add eight next year to the force of 760 officers.
“When you put more officers in the street, more crimes get solved,” May told commissioners.
The District Attorney’s Office serves El Paso and Teller counties. Because El Paso County accounts for the vast majority of the district’s population, the county funds about 95 percent of the budget for May’s office.
County department representatives will continue presenting their needs to commissioners at 9 a.m. Thursday at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave.