A space consultant’s report recommending the construction of a 78,722-square-foot addition to the Charlotte County Justice Center convinced county commissioners to add the $36 million project to a referendum asking voters to extend the local-option 1 percent sales tax by eight years in November. Under state law, counties are required to provide space for judicial operations, and the study projected total caseloads handled by the county and circuit courts housed in the building to leap by 51 percent by 2032 to 32,935 cases.
The county population is expected to increase by 16.6 percent from 165,411 in 2013 to 192,976 by 2032, but the study points to historical trends that show population and caseloads do not have a linear, or 1-to-1 relationship. As the study states, cases “arise out of human interactions,” and the potential quantity of interactions goes up geometrically as population increases, not linearly. For example, from 2002 to 2012, the county population grew by 14 percent (not the 11 percent cited in the study), while the number of court filings, or caseload, rose from 8,731 to 13,007 or 49 percent.
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