County upgrades Justice Court Case Management and Collections Software

By Becky Brewster

Traffic violators with outstanding traffic tickets in the Culberson County Justice Court system will soon face aggressive collection efforts that could lead to quicker driver’s license suspensions.  The Culberson County Commissioners approved the purchase of NetData (JP Court Case Management) and GHS (Collections) software to expedite the processing and collection of traffic tickets.  Currently, the JP Courts use an outdated case management software and contract with a law firm for separate delinquent collection services which is a cumbersome and sometimes inefficient process.   Now, the two systems will be integrated with daily updates to provide current information to Court employees.  And to further expedite the process, the Texas Department of Public Safety’s iTicket system will upload new tickets directly into the DPS system which then autofiles into the Court using the Netdata software.  No data entry delay; no misplaced tickets.

After 15 days of ticket issuance, the system will generate a courtesy letter to the alleged violators.  After 61 days, which is the statutory delinquency date, the system will file with ONMI to put a hold on Texas driver’s licenses or through the Non-Resident Violator Compact (NRVC) to put a hold on out-of-state licenses. The NRVC is a United States interstate compact used by most states to process traffic citations across state borders.  When a motorist is cited in another member state and chooses not to take action relating to the settlement of  the ticket, the other state notifies the driver’s home state and the home state will suspend the driver’s license until the driver takes care of the matter in the other state.

NetData/GHS representative Dallas Osborn was on hand to explain the system to the Commissioners.  He noted that the first step is to convert the data from the old system to NetData.  The conversion will include citations from as far back as 1995.  The conversion, training and encryption software is estimated to cost approximately $21,000.  NetData/GHS is waiving the initial licensing fee with subsequent years costing $5000/year per JP court.   Osborn noted the new system will save time and money on the front end as well as increase collections with an estimated 30-40% increased collection rate on delinquent cases.  The system will also have an integrated credit card management system which will allow on-line payments.  Another advantage is the ability for the County financial offices to print financial reports directly.

Since, the new software package includes integrated collection services, the Commissioners agreed to give a 30-day notice to the present collection company terminating the services agreement for court collections. Also, in response to the software upgrade, the Commissioners decided to defer the establishment of a consolidated Judicial Center until they see the impact of the new software on the operation of the four JP courts.  Judge Carlos Urias reported that he had obtained a legal opinion from Texas Association of Counties Attorney Jim Allison supporting the use of county equipment (hardware, software, phones, internet, supplies) on private property for public purposes.  This opinion will allow for the County to provide the necessary tools to the JPs from Precincts Two, Three and Four to legally operate their courts from their homes.

The Commissioners reviewed the 2016-2017 Budget which incorporated the various proposed projects, equipment needs, staffing issues and requests from local entities that were discussed at the prior work session.  The proposed budget will exceed projected revenues and carryover by approximately $254,000.  The County does not propose to increase the property taxes above the effective tax rate calculation. Instead, this excess will be funded by reserve funds currently in savings accounts.

County Auditor Mark Cabezuela will finalize the budget for adoption at the September 12, 2016 regular meeting.