County Calls For State-funded Indigent Defense System
Published: March 21st, 2016
By: Shawn Magrath

NORWICH – Chenango County is calling on New York State to take up the burden of indigent legal defense services which local officials argue would save county taxpayers approximately half a million dollars.

Members of the County Board recently passed a resolution requesting that the state legislature create a 100 percent state-funded indigent legal defense system. According to county officials, the measure would result in tremendous savings to the county by relieving local taxpayers of the public defender’s nearly $600,000 per year budget.

“If the state took over 75 or 80 percent of that budget, it would equate to about $500,000,” explained County Treasurer William Craine. “If that’s phased in over five years, we would see savings of about $100,000 each year.”

For more than 50 years, the New York State legislature has delegated the responsibility of providing counsel for individuals charged with a crime to counties. But the decision to root that responsibility at the county level has resulted in a system where county and local taxpayers are strained with the cost of what’s legally the state’s responsibility.

As it stands, Chenango County foots more than 80 percent the cost of indigent legal defense services which is paid through real property taxes, said Craine. Any relief in the system would lead to lower property taxes.

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