York's collections behind 2015 pace

David Weissman
  • Through July, York's Clerk of Courts has collected $600,000 less than during same span in 2015.

For the first time in about a decade, York County's Clerk of Courts Office is projected to see a yearly decrease in collections.

Clerk of Courts Don O'Shell said the office, which is the county's primary collector of costs, fines and restitution, this year is more than $600,000 behind where it was last year through July.

Historically, the office sees yearly increases between $500,000 and $1 million, O'Shell said, pointing to the increases of more than $600,000 from 2014 to 2015 and nearly $700,000 between 2013 and 2014.

O'Shell said the drastic change has been caused by two main factors.

The first is that Court of Common Pleas Judge John S. Kennedy has only been able to provide the office with a half day per month to file contempt of court petitions for failure to pay costs, fines and restitution, he said.

Last year, when a full day per month was provided, the office filed 1,554 such petitions, but O'Shell said that number will likely be less than 1,000 this year.

The other is more restrictive admission into the Advanced Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD, program, O'Shell said.

ARD allows first-time, nonviolent offenders to avoid conviction by instead completing a set of court-ordered requirements that can include community service and restitution.

O'Shell said those accepted into ARD, which is determined by the county District Attorney's Office, typically pay more quickly than average defendants, which adds a yearly "surge" to the office's collections.

York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said ARD is intended for "low risk, low need" defendants, and they removed several convictions, including domestic violence, animal abuse and sex offenders, from qualifying.

The DA's office moved to the York County Judicial Center, which allows less space for ARD placement, Kearney added.

O'Shell said the county is on track to admit 550 defendants into ARD this year, compared to 1,269 last year.

Despite the expected decline, York County's collections rank high among mid-size counties, O'Shell said.

Through Aug. 3, the office is responsible for collecting more than $128.5 million that is owed to the state, county, municipalities and crime victims, and O'Shell said his department expects to collect approximately 55 percent of that figure over five years.

"We're engaged in everything state law authorizes," O'Shell said of his office's collection efforts. "The dynamics have just shifted."

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.