Pataskala City Council will have to determine how or whether to change the mayor's-court fee structure.

Pataskala City Council will have to determine how or whether to change the mayor's-court fee structure.

Council on Monday is expected to review legislation on changes, Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher said. He said it might make more sense for the city to reorganize the way the system is set up.

Tonia McFerin, Pataskala's clerk of courts, said the fines and court costs currently are entered together. If the two could be entered in the system separately, it would help the city keep better records.

"We need to separate the court costs away from the fines," she said. "There is a fine on each charge, but you are only charged court costs once."

Pataskala instituted a mayor's-court program in 2005, helping the city to reduce its costs of contracting with Licking County Municipal Court for the service. In 2006, the program almost broke even.

Butcher said that when establishing a mayor's court in the city, he had to look at other communities' best practices because he had no experience as a magistrate or judge.

This fee-structure change also is related to a study of best practices.

Butcher said the city also might need to determine what to do when people send in a fine and overpay. Currently, the city spends administrative time trying to refund overpayments. Butcher said he'd like to see legislation stating that an overpayment of $5 or less does not have to be returned. If the city receives an overpayment of more than $5, he said, the city should continue to try to refund it.

"I think this would help us keep our handling costs down," he said.

McFerin said a few other costs could be added to the system if council approves a legislative change. A late fee and a warrant-processing fee for those who fail to appear in court also could be added, she said. McFerin said those are fees other courts already charge.

Most of the issues are being addressed strictly for better accounting practices, she said.

Pataskala City Council is scheduled to meet in a study session at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 2, at Pataskala City Hall, 625 W. Broad St. The council meeting is set to begin at 7 p.m.

lwince@thisweeknews.com