A Bar budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year with no increase in annual membership fees was unanimously approved by the Board of Governors.
Budget Committee Chair-elect Michael Higer presented the budget at the board’s March 28 meeting and also told the board that the Budget Committee does not see the need for a fees increase in the next five years.
Fees for active members will remain at $265 and for inactive members will stay at $175.
Higer noted that the Bar has generally had surpluses since the last fee hike, but at some point “you’re going to have to start taking money out of that savings account. We think it will be about five years before you have to think about another fee increase.”
“For the 13th year in a row, there will be no increase in Florida Bar fees. The last increase was in 2002,” Higer said, as he introduced the budget. “Our fees represent approximately 65 percent of the total revenues reflected in the budget. Our total revenue is budgeted at approximately $39 million, which is slightly higher than the revenue budgeted for 2013-14.
“Our operating expenses are budgeted for approximately $41.7 million as compared to $40.3 million for 2013-14.”
Higer noted that while on paper the budget has a $1.1 million deficit, that isn’t expected to occur, noting that several recent budgets have started with projected deficits but wound up in the black.
“In 2013-14 [the Bar had] a similar projection and it turns out we’re going to have $1.1 million plus,” he said. “There was a $2.2 million swing. The reason for that is we project very conservatively when we project our revenues and very aggressively when we project our expenses.”
Higer also said there may be further tweaks when the board considers member comments on the budget at its May meeting.
An official notice with a complete breakdown of the Bar’s 2014-15 budget is here.
Member fees are expected to raise $25.5 million in the new budget, compared to an expected $24.9 in the current budget year and $24.3 million in 2012-13.
The largest expense continues to be the regulation of the profession, which includes the grievance program, ethics, professionalism, lawyer advertising, the Attorney-Client Assistance Program, and Membership Records. That will be budgeted at nearly $18 million, of which $13.9 million is for the grievance program and ACAP, which handles intake for the grievance program. That’s up about $200,000 for regulation of the profession for the current year.
Communications with the public and Bar members, which includes the Bar’s Public Information department and the Journal and News, is budgeted at $4.6 million next year, compared with nearly $4.3 million this year.
The Bar expects to bring in $6.8 million from CLE courses, selling legal publications, and other member services, while those will cost around $7.2 million.
About $2.4 million, or $25 per member, will go to the Clients’ Security Fund.
After the May meeting, the budget will be submitted to the Supreme Court.