Increased municipal courts fee to benefit domestic violence shelters

A woman sits at a conference table next to small building blocks and a bowl of sensory sand. Sharla Nolte, manager of marketing and donor communications at Rose Brooks Center in Kansas City, Missouri, speaks with center employee Monica Mayberry (unpictured) about an upcoming fundraiser for the center. (Photo by Caitlin Cress/Hale Center for Journalism)

This October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Pres. Barack Obama released a presidential proclamation naming it such, where he asked “Americans to speak out against domestic violence and support local efforts to assist victims of these crimes in finding the help and healing they need.”

It’s fitting then that, on Oct. 6, the city of Kansas City, Missouri, will begin collecting a larger court cost fee in the municipal courts to benefit domestic violence shelters. The full ordinance that instated this increase is available here.

This fee has existed since 1992, when it was $1 for each municipal violation. In 1999, the fee was increased to $2. After recent passage of House Bill 1238, which amended court cost amounts, Kansas City will now collect $4 for moving and general ordinance violations and $3 for non-moving violations. The proceeds from these fees are allotted to fund the operating expenses for local domestic violence shelters.

Rose Brooks Center, a 35-year-old domestic violence agency, is one of the shelters that receives this money. It has been doing so for over a decade, said Sharla Nolte, the center’s manager of marketing and donor communications.

Monica Mayberry, community advocacy coordinator at the center, said that this funding increase is well overdue.

“This will help us tremendously, not only so we won’t have to cut any programs — we will never do that — but to enhance and maybe potentially increase services,” she said.

The city divides the current $200,000 fund between four shelters: Hope House ($77,282), Newhouse ($33,693), Rose Brooks ($74,700) and Synergy ($14,325), Benita Jones, the city’s public information officer, said. An additional $72,464 across the entire fund is projected to be raised through the increased fee.

Rose Brooks uses its piece of the funding pie towards its emergency shelter and wraparound services like counseling and advocacy in schools, hospitals, courts and more.

Mayberry said this all-encompassing support is crucial to helping victims break the cycle of domestic violence. Rose Brooks employees advocate for victims during each step of the complicated process.

“We need to shift that focus (away from) putting all of the decision-making just on the victim,” she said. “It’s a lot to ask for: leave your house, go get an order of protection, go to 100-plus court dates, miss work, probably get fired. It’s a lot.”

The city ordinance that increased the funding for domestic violence shelters includes several other funding increases. The most notable of these is $5 on each court case to fund the restoration, maintenance and upkeep of the Kansas City Municipal Court building at 1101 Locust.

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