By Ryan Lewis
JASPER, Tenn. - In an effort to keep pace with surrounding municipalities and offset rising costs, the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously voted to raise the city's court costs.
New costs are $135, up from $119, and will be charged whenever someone goes in front of a judge.
City officials said growing mandates from the state have forced the increase.
"We need to bring our court costs up to help us cover what the state gets," Jasper Police Chief Tim Graham said. "We're either going to lose that money or pass it on to the speeders."
Recently, the state began requiring towns to pay $13.75 for each case that comes before a judge, officials said.
Chief Graham said the town gets about 69 cents back on each case for doing the required paperwork properly.
Administrators said there's little they can do except pass the costs on to offenders.
"I've checked around, and our (court costs are) pretty low," Mayor Billy Simpson said. "We're getting these mandates from the state almost every day, and there's nothing we can do about it."
Alderman Steve Looney said it's a question of: "Are we coming out in the hole on this?
"We don't want to do that," he said. "Let's give it over to the criminals and let them pay."
Alderman Chip Wampler, who is also a police officer in Kimball, Tenn., said he agreed the costs should be raised.
"I don't think we should be any cheaper than what a state trooper writes a ticket for," he said. "It may be easier for us to pay the $13.75 because of what it's going for."
He said the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's crime lab has been going through budget cuts and the extra $13.75 on cash bonds will go for lab work done all over the state.
That way every municipality in the state is contributing to the lab instead of on a case by case basis, officials said.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at email@example.com.