LAWRENCEVILLE -- The new law that has people waiting in line to renew their driver's license also has crammed the halls of the county courthouse.
Daily lines outside of the Probate Court office of people seeking the birth certificates and marriage licenses required for the secure license renewal are just one reason that officials are considering a boost to the budget.
Probate Court Judge Jim Clarke Wednesday asked for a series of initiatives to boost the office, which also seen a surge in recent years in firearms applications and a bigger burden for guardianships and conservatorships needed for adults with autism and other special circumstances.
Clarke plans to retire after nearly 20 years as probate judge. He introduced his replacement Chris Ballar, who won the job in a primary in July, after the presentation.
But Clarke noted the potential problems that could arise with an inexperienced judge for a court where applications have increased 50 percent since 2009 with no increase to the staff.
In addition to help from a part-time judge and a full-time associate judge lower on the priority list, Clark requiested a full-time vital records clerk and two part-timers to help with estates and vital records. A firearm fingerprinting room, with two more full-time clerks to work it would help speed the process for the largest volume of filings the office currently sees.
Plus, he is asking for a full-time auditor to catch problems with conservatorships and make sure that vulnerable residents aren't left penniless.
In all, the wish list comes to more than $400,000. It was the steepest increase in requests during the opening day of presentations to Chairwoman Charlotte Nash and a group of residents asked to oversee the budgeting process.
Gwinnett's Superior, State and Magistrate judges said they would continue to live with a decreased budget, brought on by necessity several years ago when property values caused tax receipts to slow.
The biggest change, Magistrate Judge George Hutchinson said, is coming from a shifting of court filings from State Court to Magistrate Court due to a state-imposed increase in State Court fees. But judges have been flexible in sitting in on cases when needed.
"We recognize the (budgeting) situation we all face .. and we want to provide the best services we can to Gwinnett County," Hutchinson said.
For the clerk of court's office, which handles filings for all three courts, the biggest need is for two more deputy clerks, said Mark Wozniak, finance manager for the department.
The office has already increased to nearly 1,800 cases per clerk, well above the optimal 1,675 case per clerk load. Plus, he noted, cases are often more complex, resulting in more paperwork to keep up with, and garnishments, which are very complicated, have increased in the down economy.
Juvenile Court Judge Robert Rodatus beseeched officials to replace an attorney lost several years ago in a retirement buy out, so the office's guardian ad litem staff could be filled. Guardians ad litem represent children in cases where parental rights are lost or in custody cases and are an essential part of the court, he said.
While he isn't making the request to the county government, Rodatus said he will be seeking some state funds to add a drug court to the Juvenile Court, gearing it toward parents who have lost custody of their children due to drug issues.
Wednesday's final presentation came from the Department of Water Resources, where funds do not come from taxpayers but from water and sewer customers and a stormwater utility.
Much of the focus for 2013, said Deputy Director Peter Frank, is on capital projects to rehab the aging water and sewer pipes and plants.
After years of debt financing to pay for improvements, the department reaches its peak debt payment of $100 million a year for the years 2013 to 2018.
Frank said officials believe the department has the funds to make the payments, as annual increases to water and sewer bills have already been approved by commissioners. Of the $16 million increase in revenue expected next year, $15 million will be devoted to paying down the debt.
The budget presentations continue Thursday, with requests expected from Recorder's Court judges and the clerk of that court, as well as the county police and fire departments.