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Iowa budget cuts could have deep impact on county courthouses

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SIDNEY, Ia (FOX42KPTM) - A proposed multi-million dollar budget cut could put a strain on Iowa county courthouses and legal experts think smaller counties will be the hardest hit.

According to Iowa's state court administrator, about 30 courthouses across Iowa would be deeply impacted by budget cuts. Those cuts could force the state to shut down court services.

"A lot of us started talking about it," said Camaron Focht, who lives in Sidney, Iowa.

That's especially true in some of Iowa's smaller communities.

"With smaller towns and different smaller counties, I think it would have more of an impact there because that's people's jobs."

A plan by state lawmakers calls for a slash of nearly $5 million to the court system. They're still trying to get a handle on the budget. Just last year, even people in Pottawattamie County felt the pinch. In May, the courthouse had to close on the eve of Memorial Day weekend. That meant people who needed to pay tickets or child support were out of luck.

"The legislature is sending the message they want us to be smaller," said Ruth Godfrey, Pottawattamie County's clerk of court.

If the budget cuts go through this year, legal experts predict jobs will be left empty. Also, judges will be hard to come by and there could be delays in civil lawsuits.

Godfrey feared trouble last year.

"I think next fiscal year is going to be as bad, probably worse."

For now, it's just wait and see.

"It's just kind of how it is," said Focht.

Of course, nothing is set in stone just yet. The state court administrator expects the closures would be determined by caseload.

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