Tasked with representing those charged with crimes in the superior courts of Bartow and Gordon counties, the Public Defender's Office faces a battle of its own -- doing more with less.
Bartow County provides the department with a total of $417,000 in funding, which does not reflect any resources from Gordon County.
The office operates with 15 full-time employees: nine lawyers, five administrative staff and one investigator. Salaries also account for the largest portion of the office's budget -- $33,000 for regular employees and $260,600 for the legal fees line item.
"The legal fees line item of our budget consists of the salary and benefit costs of our county-funded employees," explained Circuit Public Defender Christopher Paul.
Among other staffing line items, $85,600 is allocated for administrative services and $1,500 is set aside for court reporters.
Paul said $3,500 pays for the books and periodicals line item, which "consists of legal research materials and other professional publications that we utilize in our daily work."
Located at 114 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville, utilities can be costly, with $7,000 allotted for electricity, $3,000 for natural gas and $1,500 for water and sewer.
In addition, the Public Defender's Office budgets: $5,000 for office supplies; $700 for general supplies; $5,000 for telephone expenses; $2,000 for R&M office equipment; $1,000 for printing and binding; $3,500 for dues and fees; and $1,000 for education and training.
Paul said that, despite cutbacks, the support of the county administration has been vital.
"Like most other state and local government agencies, the economic downturn has forced us to do as much, if not more, with fewer and fewer resources," he said. "Fortunately, Bartow and Gordon county have continued to support our program in these difficult economic times, recognizing the important role that our office serves in our local criminal justice process."
The Public Defender's Office is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Applications are accepted Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Applications for service may be found online at http://www.bartowga.org/index.php/courts/pd-main, but the office does not handle divorce cases, child support cases or cases pending in municipal or probate court.