Colorado plans to employ 500 new workers
Despite the poor economy and nearly $2 billion in program cuts over the past two years, virtually every part of state government plans to expand the number of jobs next year.
The proposed $19.6 billion spending plan for the 2010-11 fiscal year that the Colorado Legislature is to complete this week calls for an increase of more than 500 new jobs. The bulk of those jobs is going to higher education and the Department of Corrections.
“Why am I not surprised?” asked Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction. “Business as usual wins again. So much for the hiring freeze, so much for tough choices, so much for all the cuts that have been made.”
The state’s colleges and universities are expected to combine to increase staffs by more than 440 full-time-equivalent positions, according to budget documents.
Of those, the greatest increase is for the 13-school Colorado Community College System, which is requesting 392 additional full-time positions.
Nancy McCallum, president of the system, said the additional jobs are needed to handle a 20 percent spike in enrollment at all of its schools.
“Essentially, when we have an increase in students of 17,790, you have to have professors to teach them,” she said. “When people become unemployed, they come to us to get retrained. They want a specific job skill, and that’s what we teach.”
McCallum said most of the positions are for adjunct instructors, part-time workers who don’t receive benefits.
At 2 percent, Mesa State College’s expected increase in new workers is among the lowest statewide. It expects to add 10.3 full-time-equivalent workers, said Pat Doyle, the college’s vice president for finance.
“Part of it is enrollment growth, which is the principle driver in creating additional faculty jobs,” Doyle said.
“We’ve experienced a 16 percent growth this year in enrollment. We’re up in traditional students, we’re up in Colorado students, we’re up in 14-county (regional) students, we’re up in out-of-state students, and we’re up in community-college students.”
In addition to the four-year Mesa State, the college operates the two-year Western Colorado Community College, which is not part of the system that McCallum oversees.
The four-year school has seen about 600 more students this year, while the two-year college has about 400 more. Together, the schools have more than 7,000 students.
Only two schools, Fort Lewis College in Durango and the Colorado State University System in Fort Collins and Pueblo, are requesting fewer workers next year.
The bulk of state government is eliminating several positions in all departments except prisons, said Todd Saliman, director of Gov. Bill Ritter’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting.
That, in part, is because the governor’s office is consolidating information technology jobs under a single roof. Although it appears Ritter’s Office of Information Technology is growing by more than 180 percent, there actually will be fewer jobs overall, Saliman said.
“We’re transferring about 756.4 FTEs out of all departments, but only growing OIT by 680.7 jobs,” he said. “That’s a net drop of about 75 jobs.”
Katherine Sanguinetti, spokeswoman for the state’s prisons, said the department would be reducing its staff if not for the need to open part of the newly built Colorado State Penitentiary II in Canon City. The Department of Corrections, which has delayed opening the new prison until September, plans to open one of three towers there along with 316 of the 943 beds the maximum-security prison holds.
As a result, it is hiring 220 people, some of whom will transfer from other facilities that are being closed or scaled back, Sanguinetti said. When fully open, the prison will employ more than 550 people, but Sanguinetti said the department has not yet determined when that will happen.
“We have 30 fewer jobs, because we’re suspending operations at the boot camp, but for safety reasons we have to open CSP II,” she said.
Last year, the Department of Corrections closed an aging prison in Canon City and was poised to do the same to the Rifle Correctional Center, but it is no longer considering that. The department already announced plans to close an inmate boot camp at Buena Vista Correctional Facility, eliminating about 30 positions.
Sanguinetti said the department is experiencing a decrease in the number of minimum- and medium-security inmates, but an increase in the most violent offenders. Without the additional beds at the new penitentiary, the department would have no place to house them, she said.
Meanwhile, the only branch of state government eliminating jobs is the Judicial Department, which is controlled by the Colorado Supreme Court.
The 2010-11 budget listed the courts as planning to add 123 jobs next year, but it’s actually eliminating 77, Budget Director Tia Mills said.
That’s partly because the department for the second year in a row isn’t planning to implement a bill approved by the Colorado Legislature in 2007 to add new judges and staff to several judicial districts around the state, she said.
Of the state’s three constitutional offices — the departments of Treasury, State and Law — Treasurer Cary Kennedy is neither creating nor eliminating positions.
Secretary of State Bernie Buescher plans to add 0.2 FTE to his office, but it still has 15 vacancies it’s not planning to fill, department spokesman Rich Coolidge said.
Attorney General John Suthers is adding 5.2 jobs to the Department of Law, but spokesman Mike Saccone said the additional attorneys are because of caseload increases from state agencies and a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against the state over education funding.