Board OKs $102.8 million budget

Staff Writer

The Board of Governors has approved a $102.8 million budget for 1997, reflecting a $20 decrease in State Bar membership dues. John McGuckin, chair of the committee on administration and finance, said the spending plan is the bar's first $100 million budget.

Since 1991, the budget has been reduced annually by $1.5 million to $2 million through a series of expense cuts and revenue enhancements. McGuckin said various budget-cutting techniques were employed, such as leaving staff positions vacant and reducing travel expenses.

In two years, more than 40 positions were eliminated, many from the recently revamped attorney discipline system.

The goal of decreasing membership dues by $20 was met for 1997, the first time in the bar's 70-year history that such a reduction has occurred. Lawyers who currently pay the maximum fee of $478 a year will be paying $458 next year.

Prior to the approval of the 1997 budget, there was some grumbling among several members of the board over the way the package was presented.

Michael Case of Ventura complained that he received the package only a few days before the meeting and that the information was too extensive to be absorbed on such short notice.

Peter Kaye of San Diego also was upset at the lack of opportunity for input from board members, calling the process "absolutely backwards."

For the second year in a row he registered his protest by voting against approval.

Malissa McKeith also voted against approval, saying that a $100 million budget deserves more scrutiny. She proposed that a mechanism be established to discuss policy before the budget is set.

Some board members, however, maintained that the brunt of the job should be left to the administration and finance committee. Joseph Bell of Grass Valley said he was willing to defer to the expertise of staff and committee members, but he was concerned about certain items, such as dependence on revenue from the sale of the bar's San Francisco headquarters.

T. William Melis, the bar's chief financial officer, assured board members that issue had been factored into the budget and that several different agencies have already expressed interest in purchasing the building at 555 Franklin St.

This year the State Bar purchased a new headquarters at 180 Howard St., San Francisco, and the relocation is expected to be completed in 1997, consolidating several offices scattered around northern Califor-nia.

In other business, the board also: