STAFF SUMMARY OF MEETING
INTERIM COMMISSION TO STUDY FISCAL STABILITY
|Time:||09:06 AM to 04:50 PM|
|This Meeting was called to order by|
|This Report was prepared by|
X = Present, E = Excused, A = Absent, * = Present after roll call
|Bills Addressed: ||Action Taken:|
|Call to Order|
Pre-K through 12 Education
Race to the Top
K-12 Education Discussion
09:07 AM -- Call to Order and Opening Remarks
A copy of the Committee Summaries from the August 19 and 20 meetings were distributed to commission members. After opening remarks, Senator Heath introduced Mr. Dwight Jones, Colorado Commissioner of Education.
09:08 AM -- Education - Pre-Kindergarten through 12th Grade
Commission members received a copy of a presentation prepared by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), which is included as Attachment A. Commissioner Dwight Jones began the presentation, stressing the importance of the Interim Commission to Study Fiscal Stability. He continued his conversation with a historical overview leading up to the current policy on Pre-K through 12th grade education. Commissioner Jones noted the presentation would cover spending issues as well as The Race to the Top.
Dr. Ken Turner, Assistant Commissioner, and Mr. Richard Wenning, CDE, came to the table to discuss the benefits from financial input. Dr. Turner provided a one-page handout about a vision for education in Colorado (Attachment B). Discussion ensued regarding how the legislature and policy help guide the opportunities for improvement to the Pre-K through 12th grade educational system, the incentives within the system, and the expectations and results.
Dr. Turner continued discussing approaches to view a child's progress. He addressed the first few slides that are included in Attachment A regarding the full implementation of Senate Bill 08-212, the Preschool to Postsecondary Education Alignment Act, and Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (CAP4K). Dr. Turner explained that the cost of SB 08-212 only included funding for 2 years (last year and this current year). He noted it currently costs $15 million to run the system and that it will cost an additional amount to improve it. He discussed the Alternative Licensure Act (Senate Bill 09-160). He discussed the Colorado Growth Model, indicating that it is a good tool for instruction and assessment, and discussed the potential of expanding it to all schools. Dr. Turner then discussed high-leverage points such as performance-based funding and other systems, such as Ireland's system of incentivizing students, which is addressed in SB 09-256.
Mr. Rich Wenning continued the discussion on the importance of information and accountability, noting SB 09-163, The Educational Alignment Act. He pointed to www.schoolview.org, the CDE's new portal to view things such as the Colorado Growth Model. He noted the vision directed toward a state-wide database system to share practice techniques, lesson plans, and performance-based incentives. The system would allow teachers to search for other teachers' practices, papers, and other techniques. He noted that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) expansion contribution of $2.5 million can be applied toward the State Longitudinal Data System, which will have a maintenance cost to the state of $3 million per year once implemented. Indiana and Massachusetts have already adopted this system. Mr. Wenning discussed the Colorado growth model and the State Longitudinal Data System, which will be able to track each child's progress through the educational system. Some school districts (Jefferson County) are already using the system. Currently, educators have access to the system, but soon parents will also have access.
Commission members presented questions to the panel. Representative Court asked, in regard to transients and the State Longitudinal Data System, if a child can be tracked throughout the state if the student changes locations. Mr. Coors asked about the usability of the data by parents. Mr. Wenning discussed the accountability factor of the system, including ratings for schools. The system has a parent report, in many languages, that gives parents the building blocks to guide questions. There are tables in School View that provide information on the progress of the schools and their students. He noted more accountability measures will be implemented in the future.
Mr. Knox asked about the incentives that take place when performance is not going well. Mr. Wenning explained that current state incentive funds are low, so incentives are coming from the districts. He suggested that once SB 09-163 is fully rolled out, more accountability will be apparent. Representative Court stressed the importance of the interaction between the districts and the state, so if a parent has a problem with one school, the parent can look toward another school in another district.
Mr. Jones continued the conversation noting the importance of parents' contributions towards school quality. Senator Brophy noted the progress of the state's educational system, but then redirected focus to the cost of the State Longitudinal Data System and the mission of the Long Term Fiscal Stability commission. Mr. Jones explained the costs of initiating and developing the system, noting the first $400,000 to $800,000 applied toward the initial development, but that costs will increase to continue the development of the system and to comply with federal rules.
Ms. Vody Herrmann, Assistant Commissioner of the CDE, came to the table to discuss some of the costs associated with the system. She pointed to the third slide in Attachment A regarding the Public School Finance Act of 1994. She noted the total state share is 63.6 percent and the local district share is 36.4 percent. The total amount spent per student is approximately $7,200. Senator Brophy noted that some districts spend more per student, indicating that additional money, such as school levy overrides, go into spending.
Ms. Herrmann continued the discussion with total state and federal funds distributed to school districts (slide 4 of Attachment A). Slide 5 of the presentation presents information on the total current expenditures per pupil, including the U.S. Average, the high and the low (New Jersey and Utah, respectively) and where Colorado ranks (at 40th) out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. Senator Brophy suggested we do not know if we are comparing "apples to apples" and that we could be spending more per student than what we think. Ms. Herrmann stated that all states report the same data. She noted, however, that other states do have various local taxes that they apply toward education, and offered to pull more detailed data about what other states report. Mr. Fagen noted that, while local districts have some funding, it is the School Finance Act that will provide long-term funding.
Ms. Herrmann stated that the local school districts collect and report all of the data about revenue collected through all local sources, such as property tax, ownership tax, grants, etc. Representative Court explained that some districts are more wealthy than others, so some districts have more money per pupil than others. Dr. Knox commented that every school district has different requirements, and although the numbers can be correct, the data do not show the full measure of what is spent on education per student in K-12. Mr. Hume concurred, but noted the commission needs to focus on the results and costs of school funding.
Ms. Herrmann discussed state rankings of average teacher salary, enrollment, total funding, and funding per pupil. She explained the voter approval override, the general override, the full-day kindergarten override, and the transportation override. Ms. Herman continued discussing assessed values, teacher salaries, and mill overrides for the school districts. She discussed programs, such as the Exceptional Children's Education Act, English Language Proficiency Act, and other programs. Some of the programs have federally mandated requirements, some have state and federal mandated requirements, and some have little requirements, for example, transportation.
Ms. Boigon asked if the state and federal funding for programs could be broken out. Ms. Herrmann noted the federal share is 64 percent, with the remainder from the state. Ms. Herrmann continued to summarize the report, "Appropriations for New Programs or Expansions of Existing Programs" (within Attachment A). This portion of the report was prepared by the JBC and describes the outcome of various legislation. Senator Heath noted that construction dollars were taken out of school funding. Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) dollars are still going to school funding and help provide full-day kindergarten funding.
Ms. Herrmann discussed the estimated cost of an ideal educational system, beginning with a national move to increase teachers' salaries. Other priorities would be to provide full day kindergarten at all schools. In addition, she suggested the ideal educational system would provide half-day preschool to all 4 year-old children. It would also fund the Accelerating Students Through Concurrent Enrollment (ASCENT) high school program, a program that provides the opportunity for a student to graduate with an associates degree. Mr. Jones noted the strong relationship that high schools have with community colleges.
Mr. Jones noted that the concurrent enrollment helps keep students in school in both high school as well as college and increases college completion. Senator Brophy noted there are funding incentives to maintain the relationship between high schools and community colleges. He suggested the student benefits too, because there are several years of college the student does not have to pay for. While this program extends a child's K-12 education by one extra year, the student can achieve up to 60 credit hours to apply to college. He further explained that this program works, but it does cost the state money. Senator Brophy stressed this is one type of program that is successful. Ms. Herrmann suggested there will be an assessment to see how this program (from House Bill 09-1319 and Senate Bill 09-285) is continued. She continued to explain that, under the estimated cost of an ideal system, there is also consideration to extend the school calendar year. Ms. Herrmann explained the funding that would be required in terms of full time equivalents (FTE) to accommodate the half and full-day kindergarten programs. Mr. Hume asked about class size. Ms. Herrmann said that the Department of Education did look to reduce class size.
Ms. Herrmann presented information on the additional costs for full day kindergarten.
The commission recessed.
The commission reconvened.
11:12 AM -- Race to the Top
Ms. Nina Lopez, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, joined the panel to discuss ARRA funding and the Race to the Top grants. Ms. Lopez stated the goals in ARRA that have to do with education are there to save jobs and programs. The Race to the Top is a $4.3 billion competition among states. It is intended to support states that propose a plan to reform their educational systems. The intended goals are to increase student achievement and to close various educational gaps. The guidance focuses on four areas of assurance: standards and assessments, data systems to support instruction, great teachers and leaders, and turning around struggling schools. Ms. Lopez discussed the criteria required for states to apply.
The last two pages of the presentation handout (Attachment A) show Colorado's Race to the Top Process. Mr. Coors asked what happens after the first few years of funding runs out. Ms. Lopez noted that the state would receive $500 million over four years and discussed options for future expenses.
Dr. Knox asked the panel what the Department of Education would like to see in reform. Ms. Lopez stated the investments in assessments and the State Longitudinal System are good, pulling up under-performing schools, but other reforms have not yet been completely identified. Commissioner Jones noted they are looking at various reform options.
Representative Court asked about two-year and trade or technical school training opportunities if a four-year education is not part of an individual's career goals. The national goal is No Child Left Behind, the state goal is to prepare every child for success after K-12, whether that is career, technical, or college. Ms. Boigon asked about Mr. Jones' ideas on improving instruction. Mr. Jones noted that development for teachers is an important concept and is necessary for teachers. What they have learned from teachers is that some have better ways to teach students. A system such as School View allows teachers to tap into other teachers' techniques and try new ways of teaching students.
Senator Heath asked if the Teacher Identifier Act (House Bill 09-1065) was in line with the CDE's goals. Ms. Lopez noted the bill has created a situation that has met the Race to the Top criteria. Senator Heath addressed the commission members, reviewing how they discussed the transportation issues, and how the education issues would be approached. He explained it is more difficult to identify the individual parts of education than it was with transportation, but the School Finance Act can begin to describe what Colorado wants for K-12 education. In addition, the other categorical programs such as Exceptional Children's Education Act, English Language Proficiency Act, transportation, gifted and talented, extended calendars, and other programs, can be reviewed to identify other programs that the state wants for kids in Colorado.
Mr. Jones noted that the dollar amounts given by CDE to implement the ideal system per the commission's request are not considered a budget request for CDE. The page that shows components of the ideal system (Page 18 of Attachment A) were some of their bigger ideas but he noted that there are many more details, like smaller class sizes, high-quality teachers, longer days, and other ideas from across the state and nation that should be looked at. There is also a focus on early childhood education. He explained that "all kids should be ready by exit" requires a definition of "ready by exit." Mr. Jones added there is a tremendous difference in earning power with additional education. Parents need to partner with schools, not just drop kids off at the door. Also, achievement gaps need to be closed, and the dropout rate should be reduced. Simply pouring more money into these programs is not the solution, but finding the right programs that work is what Colorado and CDE should be looking for. Currently, many Colorado kids are not ready for exit. Mr. Jones suggested the kids that need CDE the most are not getting their needs met. Remaining competitive and getting kids caught up will require money.
Ms. Boigon provided commission members with a chart that compared Colorado funding for K-12 to the national average (Attachment C). Discussion ensued regarding the poor funding per pupil compared to the national average. But the state also needs historical data that show outcomes of students. When the state was spending more per student, was the outcome per student better? Mr. Jones noted that measuring outcomes is harder because there are various possible outcomes to measure. Dr. Turner suggested there is a phenomena that exists now, where kids have less access to education than their parents. Measurements that compare Colorado with other states need to be comparing the same types of measurements. Some states have additional measurement criteria.
Mr. Sean Conway asked about things we should avoid. If we are doing something wrong, how do we avoid it? Mr. Jones noted early childhood focus is important, and though we are trying to prepare kids to succeed once they enter school, he posed the question, "are schools prepared to accommodate these kids?" The dilemma for teachers is that some kids enter school with some reading ability, so taking a week to learn about the letter 'A' for a week is not going to be a good use of resources toward those kids, however, there are kids who enter school who have not had exposure to letters and reading, so they need the lesson on the individual letters.
The commission recessed.
01:34 PM -- K-12 Education Discussion
The commission reconvened.
The education panel, including Education Commissioner Dwight Jones, Ms. Vody Herrmann, and Dr. Ken Turner, returned to the table. The commission continued its discussion on funding and goals for K-12 education. Mr. Knox began by asking the education panel about local and state funding. Ms. Vody Herrmann shared her thoughts about teacher's salaries, and explained that Colorado continues to face a great disparity compared to other states. She further explained that at-risk students need more assistance. She stated that the funding formula in Colorado was a fair funding formula, but that the state does not provide the funding for the formula.
Ms. Herrmann continued sharing her thoughts about education funding. She stated that something needed to change in order to provide the necessary funding. Discussion ensued about the mill levy and school finance.
The commission continued its discussion about what benefits Colorado receives for its investment in education. Representative Court asked about school funding for both large and small school districts. Ms. Herrmann stated that rural counties face among the greatest disparities in funding, such as the San Luis Valley region. Representative Court continued raising questions about how students in lower-funded districts were doing.
Mr. Jones explained that about 20 percent of schools experiencing these disparities were in rural areas and 51 percent were in larger schools. Representative Court asked the Commissioner how rural districts were performing with their funding proportionally compared to other school districts. Mr. Jones shared his own experiences growing up in a rural district. He said there are things we can learn about the strategies of these schools, discussing examples of providing Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry in the curriculum and making technology available in these areas. Most of the funding in Title 1, he said, is from the federal government, and urban and suburban schools are still receiving most of the Title 1 funding.
Dr. Turner stated that the commission looked at performance in rural and urban areas. He provided statistics about school performance, and explained that both the best and worst performing schools are in rural areas. Mr. Hume stated that comparing urban and rural districts can result in an "apples to oranges" comparison because of class size and teacher ratios. In addition, teacher pay in rural districts is significantly lower, and the teachers can be retained for a lower cost. These factors need to be taken into consideration when examining the performance of rural districts, Mr. Hume stated.
Mr. Fagan asked the panel whether there is a uniform mill levy. Ms. Herrmann responded that there is no uniform mill and that each school district has a different levy. She further explained the local sources of funding, including property tax revenue and specific ownership tax revenue, and that the state must backfill the rest of the funding. Mr. Fagan raised questions about TABOR, a state-wide mill levy, and increasing the local share of educational funding. Senator Heath also shared his thoughts about residential values declining. Mr. Fagan raised the question about the state funding only categorical programs and how this would affect education finance in Colorado.
Senator Heath discussed early childhood education and what steps are needed to get students ready for high school and college. Ms. Boigon responded that she serves on the board of the Denver preschool program, and she said the board has made a commitment to find longitudinal outcomes for preschool children. She stated that 5,000 children are in the program, which is larger than expected. The program is currently under funded, she explained, and the board is considering how to address this issue. Ms. Boigon provided additional background information about Denver's efforts in this area. She stated that Colorado needs to provide early childhood education at a high quality level.
Mr. Coors raised questions about how the early childhood education program was funded. Ms. Boigon responded that it is a tuition reimbursement program based on the level of income. Ms. Boigon also responded that, because of her experiences running Head Start, she understood the importance of parent involvement. She also expressed her views about paid time-off for low income workers and a change in the work structure so these individuals could better participate in their children's education.
Senator Brophy shared his views about funding education, and asked the panel where Colorado needed to invest more. Dr. Turner responded that head start data is clear that persistent benefits occur over time when investing in childhood education. He also explained that there is evidence that children have the opportunity to catch-up.
Senator Brophy also asked the panel where they would increase the investment now with the resources the state has. Mr. Jones responded that it would depend on the school district and the issues facing that local district. He stated it was important to focus on early childhood education and concurrent enrollment. Mr. Jones also stated that he would likely use a slight increase in resources to focus on creating high quality teachers and providing them with the necessary resources they need to succeed to keep the impact closest to the classroom.
Senator Brophy continued by discussing the book Outliers authored by Malcolm Gladwell. Socioeconomic status, according to the book, has as much to do with the success of young people, Senator Brophy stated. Students that were engaged in educational activities during the summer did better than students that were more sedentary during this period. Senator Brophy continued sharing his thoughts about this book.
Mr. Coors raised questions about how dollars are spent in relation to achievement and student performance. Dr. Turner said there is not one specific study or set of data that provides evidence that a specific type of approach creates better performance, but that educating children year-round has shown some good results. Mr. Jones also said that the information tells educators that students who have a large gap in time between breaks lose some ground. He said there is the potential that students could make more gains if they didn't lose as much time. The possibility of getting better results would exist, he stated.
Representative Court said that year-round schooling was done by Jefferson County, and that some historical data should exist. She continued sharing her views about class size and whether money could be more effectively spent. She raised the question "Where would the funding be the most valuable?"
Mr. Jones stated this is a difficult question. He explained that when he was a principal, whenever the school started a new program, he would look at what existing programs needed to be eliminated. He stated that going to taxpayers for additional funding is not always an option. Mr. Jones said he has looked at how to allocate resources to address the greatest need. When resources are scarce, it is a good time to look at opportunities that are before us.
Ms. Boigon raised questions about differential teaching to meet the needs of students with unique needs. Dr. Turner stated that the commission is looking at additional actions that can be taken in this area. There is an acknowledgment that we need to be using more customized solutions for young people. Mr. Hume stated that it is important to make funding decisions based on the facts. Mr. Jones responded that to get better results some overall additional funding may be needed.
Representative Court stated the reality is that Colorado will have to do more with less. She asked the panel where the state should focus its attention and what will this cost. Mr. Jones stated that the fiscal commission's charge is to look at what the state needs in the long-term. The commission, he said, will need to examine what the educational system should be and what will be best for Colorado citizens and families.
Ms. Herrmann distributed a handout that reconciles the numbers between revenue and expenditure reports for education (Attachment D). She also distributed information that provides a comparison of revenue and expenditures by school district in Colorado (Attachment E). This information is taken from CDE's report entitled "Colorado School Districts and Boards of Cooperative Services Revenue and Expenditures FY 2007-08," which can also be found on the department's website at http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdefinance/FY07-08RevExp.htm.
Ms. Herrmann explained that this data is reported to the federal government. The report provides total expenditures for school districts across Colorado. The total expenditure amount (on page 109 of Attachment E) corresponds to the average per pupil number for the state, which is about $12,777 per pupil. This includes all expenses of a school district, she explained. Ms. Herrmann also stated that the total spending is about $9.8 billion, but the numbers exclude some factors. The commission continued discussing the per pupil cost of education in Colorado.
Ms. Neilson stated that spending more money per pupil does not necessarily produce better results. Mr. Jones agreed, and stated that looking at results is critical.
Representative Court asked whether a middle number exists for education funding. Senator Health explained the commission is trying to determine how much funding is required to maintain the status quo and achieve current results.
Ms. Herrmann stated that the General Assembly has set things in motion that cannot move forward, including additions to full day kindergarten. However, the school districts are making efforts to meet these goals with existing resources. The largest area of funding need, she said, would be to close gaps in categoricals. This would free monies currently being used for categoricals that are coming from existing programs, which is about $800 million. Senator Heath expressed his views about categoricals and commission discussion ensued. Ms. Herrmann said school districts could make more decisions. She and the commission members also discussed state and federal mandates.
Mr. Jones stated that looking at the funding for categoricals is worth exploring, and explained that school districts might benefit. The commission raised questions about special education, and Vice Chair Ferrandino said there are inadequate resources for special education. Ms. Herrmann stated that special education is under funded. Ms. Boigon agreed that the structure of special education funding should be a priority and it is not working well. She also shared her thoughts about how the state should make connections between its priorities and its ideals.
Discussion ensued between the commission and the panel about how to focus on priorities for education and how the state will fund these priorities.
Representative Ferrandino raised the question about paying teachers that have advanced degrees higher salaries, regardless of their level of performance. Mr. Turner stated that performance in the field should be linked. The commission continued discussing this issue with the panel.
Senator Health stated that the $800 million may be a mid-point for the conversation about education funding. He thanked the panel for its time and participation.
The commission recessed.
03:25 PM -- Judicial System
The commission reconvened.
Mr. Gerald (Jerry) Marroney, the State Court Administrator of Colorado, began his presentation by giving the commission members an overview of the budget of the judicial branch and its major duties. He explained that the funding for Judicial Department in FY 2009-10 is about $336 million, which is the sixth-largest area of General Fund appropriations. He discussed the personnel of the judicial branch, which includes public defenders, judges, alternate defense councils, and the Office of the Child Representative. He also explained that the Judicial branch administers probation for the state. This is a large number of people the branch is required to supervise.
Mr. Marroney stated the Judicial branch enforces the Constitutional rights of everyone else, and the branch must balance the rights of various people, including children and other citizens. It also protects the rights of the businesses in Colorado. The department currently has 216 vacant positions. He said the budget is 88 percent personnel, and when the department makes expenditure cuts it has to implement furlough days or eliminate staff.
Mr. Marroney continued his presentation, stating the department needs $25 million to prevent personnel reductions. He said when the state makes a cut to the department, it decreases the ability to get something through the court system. He discussed electronic transfers of funds for defenders and other individuals and areas. The department also collects $189 million dollars in restitution and other cases, he explained.
Mr. Marroney stated that the department needs a Rainy Day fund of about $25 million. He also discussed using resources wisely and the costs of probation and prison. Probation is much cheaper than prison in many instances, he explained. The department should increase the number of probation officers by 90, as well as increase the number of judges by 70. He explained that the department is also trying to use technology and move forward with improved communications.
Senator Health asked what the Judicial Department has implemented. Mr. Marroney responded that the department has implemented a paid time-off program. Likewise, Colorado is the only court system in country that has integrated county and district courts in a state case management system. He also explained that the Judiciary has a staff evaluation and performance system that saves the state additional resources. The department is also responsible for managing a jury system. In Colorado, filings are made electronically, and Colorado is one of the few states in the nation that has a state-wide e-filing system. This system is integrated into their case management system. Mr. Marroney said that we were the first state entity that had a systems failure to test their technology.
Mr. Coors asked about the paid time-off program. Mr. Marroney explained the program allows everyone to track electronically their paid time-off, and the approval and submission process is all done electronically as well. This enables the department to monitor the program closely. Mr. Marroney also explained that voluntary furlough days by staff are saving the department about $40,000 per month. This effort has helped to prevent court closures to the public. The department is also rotating furloughs of employees to keep the courts operating.
Mr. Coors applauded how the judiciary is being run, and that the department is taking steps to improve the efficiency of its operations. He stated that the agency is allocating its resources well to meet the most immediate and pressing needs. Mr. Coors raised the question as to whether other departments in agencies in state government are currently using this practice.
Mr. Marroney responded to questions about the caseloads for judges and increasing the amount of judges. He explained that Colorado was faring well because of additional judges that were added in past years, but the state is beginning to fall behind in its caseload.
Mr. Marroney responded to commission questions about staffing. He explained there has been a hiring freeze, which has affected about 250 positions. Senator Heath asked how many of those positions are judges. Mr. Marroney stated the state cannot freeze a judge's position or reduce a judge's salary because of Colorado's Constitution. Thus, reductions have a disproportionate impact on their employees, including staff for judges and for probation officers. He continued to discuss the impacts of parole officers, risk assessments of inmates, and probations officers. He clarified that the judicial branch administers probation and the Department of Corrections administers parole.
Mr. Fagan asked whether community corrections was part of probation, and Mr. Marroney explained it is part of the Department of Public Safety. Mr. Fagan also asked if any fees are collected to pay for parole, and Mr. Marroney explained that offenders pay a fee for probations. This allows offenders to pay for that part of their own services because they are the users of the system.
The commission also discussed recidivism of individuals returning to the Judicial system. Mr. Fagan asked whether statistics are available about how many individuals come back into the system. Mr. Marroney explained that every year the Judicial department submits a recidivism report to the General Assembly. The reports have illustrated a direct correlation between the ability to properly supervise prisoners and preventing them from returning to prison. The department has implemented programs to look at these issues, and he also discussed how the type of offense makes a difference.
Representative Court asked how the current budget situation should be addressed and raised the question as to whether corrections could be part of the judicial department. Mr. Marroney expressed his thoughts about addressing the budget shortfall and the long-term fiscal situation of Colorado. He said that he doesn't want a state that doesn't have a state judiciary.
Representative Court asked about sentencing and other issues. Mr. Marroney explained that these policies are determined by the state legislature. The bulk of the branch's cases involve trial judges making sentencing decisions within the guidelines of the law. He continued to share his thoughts about the Constitution, government, and making budget decisions.
Discussion ensued about judges and sentencing. Mr. Marroney explained that a commission is being organized about making recommendations for sentencing guidelines. The goal is to receive a balanced view about state sentencing guidelines and policies.
Mr. Coors asked questions about establishing a rainy day fund and how the department would save $25 million. Mr. Marroney explained this amount represents about 10 percent of the budget. He explained that the department is considering implementing a fee that could establish some revenue. This would prevent cuts to staff in an economic downturn and allow the department to use money to fill a budget gap instead of cutting personnel. He pointed out that the agency is already giving the Highway Users Trust Fund $11 million per year. He also discussed the monitoring of probate cases, including cases involving guardians and conservators.
Ms. Boigon asked why it would be better to have a rainy day fund at the department versus keeping it in the General Fund. Mr. Marroney responded that he would want to maintain some control over this funding in his department.
Commission discussion ensued about the 250 vacancies and how this fits into the current budget. The commission also discussed the costs of a prison bed, parole, and corrections. The members also raised questions about community corrections. Mr. Marroney stated there is a commission examining this issue.
Senator Morse asked about the impact of the federal court decision U.S. v. Gary Roth. Discussion ensued, and Mr. Marroney said this issue may implicate Colorado law and may be resolved by litigation or a potential challenge to the state law. Senator Morse continued, asking about whether this would cost the state money for litigation. Mr. Marroney responded that this has not been calculated. Further discussion continued about the implications of this decision.
The commission moved the discussion to the General Fund budget for the Judicial department. The total appropriation is $336 million with public defenders and other obligations. Representative Ferrandino discussed including the additional costs of the judges and public defenders. When funding levels return, he explained that the judicial system would need about $376 million to meet the needs of Colorado.
Sen Morse explained that it takes a 2/3 vote of the General Assembly to create additional judges. Discussion ensued about adding judges. Mr. Marroney stated that the department does everything by a weighted case load (the amount of time needed for the type of case) and said that number would suffice with today's caseload. However, he explained, if the caseload increased the need would be greater. Mr. Marroney also stated that the department needs an additional 70 judges. Thus, when adding the funding needed for additional judges, the funding level for the department would be about $381 million.
Mr. Coors asked about the caseloads and how it relates to the economy. Mr. Marroney stated that probations are rising and civil caseloads (foreclosures) are also rising. He also stated there is a direct correlation between population increase and a caseload increase. The commission also discussed how judges have been added over the past decade.
Representative Court raised questions about mandatory sentencing and the numbers of judges. Mr. Marroney explained that the judges are needed to provide good justice. This is different, he explained, than for the Department of Corrections, because you can decrease this department's needed funding if sentencing laws are modified.
Mr. Hume applauded the department's efficiency. Senator Heath thanked Mr. Marroney and his staff for their time and participation.
04:46 PM -- Closing Comments
Senator Heath discussed Friday's agenda. The morning session will be higher education and the afternoon session will include corrections. He also discussed the upcoming meetings in October and November. In addition, Senator Heath explained that only legislators can vote on recommending bills to the General Assembly.
The commission adjourned.