Nov 172003
 
Authors: Todd Nelson

A Colorado legislature committee charged with cutting costs in

state government took dead aim at higher education expenses last

week.

The Interim Committee on State Government Expenditures voted to

submit 12 bills in January’s Colorado General Assembly session,

three of which address higher education.

State universities and colleges would be able to withdraw their

employees from the state personnel system and start their own

system under one proposed bill.

Current employees of CSU would be given a choice to stay in the

state system or join the new one if the bill passes and if CSU

decides to start its own personnel system.

Gerry Bomotti, CSU’s vice president for Administrative Services,

said university officials are still trying to learn more about the

proposed bill.

“The devil is in the details with this type of thing,” Bomotti

said. Any changes made would affect the university’s 2,200

state-classified employees who are now in the state’s personnel

system.

Personnel systems cover areas such as wages, overtime and

advancement. If the university did decide to opt out of the state

personnel system, it would have to regulate all these areas itself,

including the increasingly controversial and costly area of

employee health coverage.

“If CSU did decide to opt out of the state personnel system we

would have to come up with an alternative system that works for the

university and for our state-classified employees,” Bomotti said.

Establishing a new personnel system would take at least a year,

Bomotti said.

The committee approved another draft bill that would allow state

universities and colleges to buy and operate their own vehicle

fleets.

Now the state has complete control over vehicles such as

passenger vans, cargo vans and trucks. If CSU wants to buy a

vehicle it must contact the state office in Denver and go through

an application process.

CSU’s Transportation Manager Gene Stroh said the proposed bill

was a good idea. Last year CSU paid the state a $25 management

charge per vehicle every month, which added up to $146,000 for the

year, Stroh said. That cost would be eliminated if the bill

passes.

Another bill proposed by the committee would allow universities

to be exempted from the state’s risk management program and set up

their own programs.

Risk management basically means insurance coverage. The system

as it works now has almost every state agency and program,

including universities, in the same huge insurance pool. If an

inmate in a state prison decides to sue the warden and wins a big

settlement, for example, every state agency’s insurance rate would

go up.

If CSU opted out of the state risk management program, it could

seek its own insurance program. This way CSU would be judged, and

charged, on its own actions and merits, said Earlie Thomas,

director of Environmental Health Services, which runs risk

management for CSU.

As an example, Thomas mentioned how CSU implemented a dramatic

flood control project after the 1997 flood. Usually a large,

proactive risk management step such as this would lead to a drop in

insurance rates. But the university’s insurance rates still went up

because insurers evaluate the state as a whole, not just CSU.

“This would put our destiny in our own hands,” Thomas said of

the proposed bill, though he could not say if the university would

indeed opt out of the state risk management program if the bill

passed. “We would be rewarded for the good, proactive things we do.

On the other hand, we would bear the full brunt if something bad

happens.”

The draft bills will be introduced and voted on during the

January session of the Colorado General Assembly.

 

 

 

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