The Fifth District Public Defender’s Office (PDO) 2021 budget projects expenditures will be $24,000 more than revenues.

The decrease of PDO’s total revenue of $502,388 was blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic leading to expenses out weighing revenue.

“During good times, the PDO operates with less than optimal funding,” said J. Albert Ellis, district defender, in a statement to Franklin Parish Police Jury. “The current losses of revenue directly caused by the COVID-19 crisis, means the PDO has even less with which to work.”

The PDO serves Franklin, Richland and West Carroll parishes and provides services to criminal courts and citizens.

According to the 2021 budget, PDO expects 27 percent less revenue from criminal bond fees and surety bond licensing fees. The fees total $26,151.

PDO budgeted 20 percent less revenue from condition of probation which amounts to $10,740.

The District Assistance Fund is projected to drop 22 percent of its revenue to $221,951, and the traffic courts are budgeted to take a 25 percent drop. Traffic courts are expected to bring in $172,864.

PDO total 2021 expenditures added up to be $526,388, according to the budget.

Largest expense for PDO comes from professional services totaling $292,913. Professional services include contract attorneys, the largest category expense at $213,331, and juvenile attorney at $36,000.

Second largest expense comes from personnel services and benefits amounting to $199,656, according to 2021 budget documents.

PDO is budgeted to spend nearly $190,000 in salaries for 2021.

Additionally, PDO closed out 2020 spending nearly $150,000 over its revenues, according to budget documents. For the year, PDO recorded $637,094 in revenue and $786,864 in expenses.

Largest expenses came in professional services costing PDO a total $487,200. Found in professional services were contract attorneys, misdemeanor attorneys and investigators.

Personnel services and benefits followed professional services as the second largest expense at $208,730. PDO spent $178,000 in salaries for their employees in 2020.

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