Proposed budget for FY 2013-14 boosts funding for education, economic development and restores cuts for critical state services

November 1, 2012

Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office (Eric Brown/Megan Castle):

Gov. John Hickenlooper today delivered the FY 2013-14 proposed budget to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) that makes targeted increases and restores funding in many critical areas.

The proposed budget includes new and continuing resources for: protecting the last and the least in Colorado, restoring and even improving K-12 education funding, enhancing economic development efforts, investing in infrastructure and local communities, enhancing public safety, improving State government performance and saving for the future.

“Colorado’s economy is outperforming other states,” Hickenlooper said. “This gives us the ability to restore some cuts and modestly increase funding in critical areas of the state’s budget. But we still have a long way to go to fully recover from this recession.”

The FY 2013-14 proposed budget is $21.9 billion, of which $8.1 billion is from the General Fund. Relative to the FY 2012-13 appropriation, these amounts represent increases of $1.1 billion (5.4 percent) in total funds and 5 percent ($387 million) in the General Fund.

The rebound in revenue in the General Fund finally exceeds the pre-Great Recession peak this year (FY 2012-13). But when inflation and population growth are accounted for, expected revenue is still $1.1 billion, or 14.4 percent, below the FY 2007-08 level.

“When you have this big of an economic downturn, it takes time to dig your way out,” Hickenlooper said. “That is why we’ve been so focused on finding efficiencies, pursuing statewide efforts to streamline a wide range of processes and consolidating government functions wherever appropriate. At the same time we have taken bold steps to increase the State’s reserve fund to help protect against the inevitable next economic slowdown.”

The proposed budget for FY 2013-14 includes these major policy changes and initiatives:

PROTECTING THE LAST AND THE LEAST
The administration places a very high priority on protecting the most vulnerable in our state. Some requests from the Departments of Human Services and Health Care Policy and Financing include:

- $13.1 million Total Fund (TF) dollars — $6.5 million from the General Fund (GF) — to provide services to 809 additional people with developmental disabilities. This amount includes an increase of 576 funded waiver slots to eliminate the Children’s Extensive Services Waiver Program waiting list. Unfortunately, numerous other waiting lists exist for the developmentally disabled and other populations that are not fully eliminated in this request.
- $1.8 million TF ($1 million net GF) for early intervention services for children from birth to 2 years of age.
- A 1.5 percent provider rate increase for community providers including Colorado’s county departments of human services. This equates to $56.5 million total funds, $25.8 million GF. In addition, this will apply to providers of services in the Departments of Corrections and Public Safety.
- $5 million GF as a legislative set aside for the estimated costs of the recommendations of the Elder Abuse Task Force to increase protections for vulnerable seniors. These costs will fund a system of mandatory reporting of instances of exploitation or mistreatment of seniors.
- $2 million GF for programs funded by the Older Coloradans Act.

FUNDING FOR K-12 AND HIGHER EDUCATION
The recovery in revenue allows for increased funding for both K-12 and Higher Education:

- In K-12 Education, the budget includes an increase of $201.6 million in State ($189.1 million) and local funds ($12.5 million) for total program funding, which allows for $31.7 million above what the inflation and enrollment calculation over the current year would require. In this way, the “negative factor” will decline to 15.5 percent from 16.05 percent.
- With this increased funding, the administration proposes that Colorado’s school districts focus $23.9 million to enhance full day Kindergarten and pre-school opportunities and to improve teacher quality in hard to fill areas of the state.
- The state expects 8,592 new students in the K-12 system at an average cost of $6,659 compared with $6,474 in the current year ($185 per student more).
- In the State Education Fund, the budget targets an ending balance of $435.5 million at the end of FY 2013-14. It is essential that a meaningful balance remain in the SEF for stability and protection of education funding levels.
- In Higher Education, $30 million GF for operations at the Governing Boards, Local District Junior Colleges, and Area Vocational Schools; separately, the budget includes $5.3 million for need-based financial aid.
- The budget request includes $250,000 for higher education tuition assistance for National Guard members.

ENHANCING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS
To help sustain Colorado’s economic momentum, the budget sets aside money for several programs aimed at attracting and retaining job-creating employers. The plan also invests in efforts to ensure that people around the country look at Colorado as a great place to visit and work. Notable requests include:

- $3 million to bring the annual appropriation for the Strategic Fund in the Office of Economic Development and International Trade. This funding is expected to spur the recruitment of 1,230 new jobs to Colorado.
- $2 million additional GF for tourism promotion and the establishment of a unified branding platform for the State.
- $600,000 to retain existing jobs here in Colorado.
- An additional $1 million for the existing film incentive rebate and loan guarantee program.

INVESTING IN OUR INFRASTRUCTURE AND LOCAL COMMUNITIES
The vast array of assets owned by Colorado’s State and local governments require ongoing investments in maintenance and repair. Because much of the state’s revenue is one-time in nature, the budget request includes a dramatic increase in efforts to sustain and improve many of our most important assets. Meanwhile, some of Colorado’s most important government services are delivered locally with State support. The administration believes strongly that enhancing these partnerships is integral for the quality of life and economic vitality of the State. Requests in this area include:

- $102.8 million transfer to the Capital Construction Fund, including $15 million for local water projects to deal with new standards related to “nutrients” such as phosphorous and nitrogen in wastewater [ed. emphasis mine].
- $44.9 million GF for controlled maintenance of State buildings, including $25.4 million at institutions of Higher Education.
- $23.1 million to continue building up the balance in the Controlled Maintenance Trust Fund;
- $3.0 million in the Department of Local Affairs for a grant program to assist communities with diversifying their economic development portfolios.
- A multi-agency effort to repurpose the Fort Lyon correctional facility into a key component of a drug treatment and homelessness prevention program.
- $2.0 million to the Department of Local Affairs for affordable housing support. These funds will leverage the construction of 1,200 units, 800 of which will be affordable.

ENHANCING PUBLIC SAFETY AND ADDRESSING UNMET MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS
Public Safety is a shared priority and responsibility at all levels of government in Colorado. The budget request for FY 2013-14 reflects the continuing needs in the Departments of Corrections, Public Safety and Human Services. The request this year is unique because it includes a comprehensive request for improvements in mental health services:

- For expansions and improvements related to mental health issues, in the Departments of Health Care Policy and Financing and Human Services, $17.1 million GF comprised of: $10.3 million GF for expansions of the behavioral health crisis response system, $4.8 million GF for improving behavioral health community capacity, and $2.1 million General Fund for increasing access to civil beds for those defendants determined incompetent to proceed with their trials.
- In the Department of Corrections, the incarcerated population is expected to decline, but the number of parolees to increase. Thus, the request reflects an overall decline of 137 FTE at the Department, though the budget includes an additional 25.1 FTE and $2.1 million GF for the increase in parole.
- Also in DOC, the budget includes $2.1 million GF for an expansion of the Sex Offender Treatment Program, though the final recommendation is dependent on a forthcoming study.

IMPROVING STATE GOVERNMENT
The administration is focused on making State government more efficient, effective and elegant. The budget proposal continues this important work through investment in critical IT systems and other assets, an enhanced focus on across-the-board improvements in the processes that serve the customers and taxpayers of Colorado, and pursuing thoughtful personnel and compensation policies. Selected initiatives in this area include:

- The information technology system that supports the Medicaid program is called the Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS). The time has come to replace this antiquated system. With a 9 to 1 federal match, the budget includes $15.6 million TF and $1.4 million GF to begin the multi-year procurement of this replacement.
- $372,000 in the Department of Personnel and Administration to restore and protect critical legislative and other historical archives.
- In the Office of State Planning and Budgeting, just under $1 million to continue the implementation and expansion of Lean management and process improvement initiatives. To date, 2,100 employees have received training and departments have completed 55 projects, with more than 30 more expected by March 2013.
- After four fiscal years without a raise, it is time for State employees to receive a modest cost of living adjustment of 1.5 percent and to reward top performers from a pool of funds equivalent to 1.5 percent of payroll. In total, these items require $57.8 million TF and $27.4 million GF. These totals include funding for the Judicial and Legislative branches as well as the Departments of Law, Treasury and State.

The proposed budget also includes 5 percent general fund reserve starting in FY 2012-13. Some may call this a rainy day fund. The state’s current 4 percent reserve represents only two weeks of operating expenses in the event of a downturn. The last two recessions each caused roughly 16 percent reductions in General Fund revenue.

A reserve of 5 percent ($387.3 million) would represent 18 days of operating expenses and would help protect existing state expenditures and buffer the State against slower out-year growth and volatility outside of the State’s control.

The entire letter from the governor to the Joint Budget Committee about the FY 2013-14 proposed budget can be found online at http://1.usa.gov/SrHj32.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.


United Water and Sanitation and Ducks Unlimited are working on mitigation habitat projects in Weld and Morgan counties

November 1, 2012

wetlandspondgrass.jpg

From email from United Water and Sanitation (Robert Lembke):

…United Water has been working closely with Ducks Unlimited to develop the 50-acre Haren Wetland Recharge Project near the South Platte River in southern Weld County. The project will provide migration habitat for Canada geese and many other waterfowl species.

We are also working with Ducks Unlimited to provide duck habitat in conjunction with other recharge pond projects in the Kersey, Weldon and Ft. Morgan Colorado areas.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.


The Winter 2012-2013 Outlook for Colorado is hot off the press from the Climate Prediction Center #CODrought

November 1, 2012

30dayprecipitationending10162012.jpg

Click here for the series of slides compiled by Mike Baker of the National Weather Service in Boulder. Here’s the summary:

- An elusive El Niño continues to challenge seasonal climate forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Forecasters say a wavering El Niño, expected to have developed by now, makes this year’s winter outlook less certain than previous years. “This is one of the most challenging outlooks we’ve produced in recent years because El Niño decided not to show up as expected,” said Mike Halpert, deputy of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

- When El Niño is present, warmer than normal ocean water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean shifts the patterns of tropical rainfall eastward that in turn influence the strength and position of the Pacific and Polar jet streams and storms over the eastern Pacific Ocean and United States. This climate pattern gives seasonal forecasters confidence in how the U.S. winter will unfold. For that reason, “an El Niño watch remains in effect because there’s still a window for it to emerge,” according to Deputy Director Halpert.

- Other climate factors can also influence winter weather across the country. Some of these factors, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), and Pacific Inter- Decadal Oscillation (IPO), are also prominent large scale climate patterns that influence our winter weather to varying degrees. The NAO, in particular, is difficult to predict more than one to two weeks in advance, and adds uncertainty to the winter outlook for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic portions of the country.

- According to Climate Prediction Center’s U.S. Winter Outlook, issued October 18, 2012, odds favor warmer-than-average temperatures and an “equal chance” for above-, near-, or below-average precipitation across Colorado during the November 2012 to January 2013 climate season. [ed. emphasis mine]

- This precipitation outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.

- Based on climate records, storm track and jet stream composites, a high wind storm frequency study for the Boulder area, and seasonal climate and ENSO outlooks prepared by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and The International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), the following weather conditions are more likely to occur in Colorado this winter season during weak El Niño and/or neutral ENSO conditions:

1. Above-average temperatures statewide, with odds favoring northwest and west central portions of the state
2. Slightly above-average precipitation for southern portions of Colorado where storm tracks tend to favor during El Niño events, even weak ones. Otherwise, near- to slightly below- average precipitation is anticipated for the remainder of Colorado. Nonetheless, precipitation-snowfall across Colorado should be greater overall this winter season, compared to the meager amounts observed last winter [ed emphasis mine].
3. There is a reasonable chance that Colorado will see more storms this winter season as compared to last winter, although these storms are not expected to as intense or as long-lasting as those more often observed during stronger ENSO episodes.
4. One explanation for these weaker, shorter-lived storms; storm tracks do not normally persist over any one part of the state for days at a time during weak to neutral conditions, such as northern Colorado during moderate to strong La Niñas and southern Colorado during moderate to strong El Niños.
5. Strong, potentially damaging downslope winds (known as Chinook and Bora) in the Boulder area, historically have occurred least often during weak El Niño winter seasons. Their odds of occurrence increase slightly during neutral ENSO conditions, and peak during La Niña and El Niño events of strong intensity.
6. Lastly, according to the U.S. Drought Outlook, issued October 18, 2012, those areas of the United States, including Colorado, that were severely impacted by extreme drought over the past year are unlikely to see much relief from drought conditions this winter [ed emphasis mine].

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

There’s a reasonable expectation that the state will see more storms than last winter, but forecasters don’t expect those storms to be as intense or long-­‐lasting as those commonly observed during stronger El Niño or La Niña episodes, as the storm track is expected to be inconsistent in what looks to be either a weak El Niño or even neutral Pacific ocean conditions.

What looked to be at least a moderate El Niño developing in June and July started to fade away again, with quick cooling evident across the equatorial Pacific Ocean — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for western Colorado, which is sometimes left high and dry during El Niños. Some models are now showing an increasing probability of tilting back toward another La Niña next spring, with uncertain consequences, but the trend is a cause of concern, as some of Colorado most severe extended droughts have been associated with extended La Niña periods.


Denver University: Statewide Sustainability Roundtable November 9

November 1, 2012

universityofdenverbusinessweek.jpg

You can register here.

Statewide Sustainability Roundtable
Friday, November 9, 2012
7:30 AM – 7:00 PM
University of Denver
Sturm College of Law
2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208

Main Objectives:

1. Learn about the State of Energy in Colorado, including production, demand, taxes, subsidies, players in the market, and decision makers.
2. Discover the latest studies about energy production and policy.
3. Create a road map for a long-term energy plan for Colorado that outlines benefits,
leverages regional strengths and needs, and enhances Colorado’s brand.
4. Discuss a set of indicators for Colorado that show where we are and where we are heading as a state in terms of 11 main issue areas.

Who is Invited?

Leaders from government, nonprofit, business, and education sectors from around Colorado.

More education coverage here.


Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s Headwaters Magazine Photo Contest deadline for entries is December 5

November 1, 2012

longdrawreservoirspill2010.jpg

Winning entries will be featured in the January edition of Headwaters from the foundation. Here’s the pitch:

Term: Headwaters magazine’s Winter 2012 Photo Contest ends December 5, 2012. By submitting an entry, each contestant agrees to the rules of the contest and states that they are 18 years old or older.

Who may enter: Photographers 18 years old and older.

What to enter: Powerful images relating to water utilities—pipes, water treatment, stormwater, reservoirs, water delivery, utility employees and more in Colorado. Enter anything that’s compelling! The winning image chosen for our two-page spread must be a horizontal, landscape layout.

For a photo in which a person is recognizable, you must secure permission from the subject or, in the case of a minor, the subject’s parent or guardian and provide it to Headwaters upon request. Photographs that have been published in magazines and newspapers are not eligible. The winner must relinquish rights to the photo. Photos that violate or infringe upon another person’s rights, including but not limited to copyright, are not eligible.

How to enter: Please email photographs along with captions and model releases to headwaters@cfwe.org.

All captions must include the location where the photo was taken, name of the photographer and the names of any
subjects.

Images must be high resolution electronic files (minimum 250 dpi at 10”). Photographs must be in a .jpeg, .jpg or .gif
format.

By entering the contest, entrants grant the Colorado Foundation for Water Education a royalty-free, perpetual, nonexclusive license to display, distribute, reproduce and create derivative works of the entries, in whole or in part, in any media. Any photograph reproduced will include a photographer credit.

Entry Deadline: All entries must be received through headwaters@cfwe.org by 5 pm Mountain Time on December 5, 2012.

Judging: Judging will be conducted by the editor, graphic designer and editorial team behind Headwaters magazine. Winning photographs and selected finalists will be published in a January 2013 issue of Headwaters on Colorado’s utilities, as well as related posts on the YourWaterColorado blog. Decisions of the judges will be final.

Headwaters: Published three times annually in glossy, four-color format, Headwaters is the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s leading publication, with a distribution of over 7,000. In addition, all issues are archived on CFWE’s website. The magazine highlights the history, people and current challenges of water management in Colorado. Readers gain a deeper understanding of how utility managers, conservationists and policymakers work together to manage this vital yet scarce natural resource.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here and here.


Pueblo County DA Thiebaut is driving tighter standards for the Arkansas River ahead of increased streamflow from SDS

November 1, 2012

sdspreferredalternative.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut is challenging Pueblo’s response to water quality issues on the Arkansas River. In documents filed Tuesday by Thiebaut’s environmental attorney, John Barth of Hygiene, Thiebaut asked the Colorado Water Quality Commission to deny extension of temporary modifications for selenium and sulfate levels in the Arkansas River from Fountain Creek to Avondale. The commission will decide the matter at a Dec. 10 hearing.

Thiebaut, who leaves office in January, said he filed the challenge because that reach of river will deteriorate from increased flows down Fountain Creek when Southern Delivery System goes on line. “We have serious water quality problems in Pueblo County that pose a threat to our health, economy and environment,” Thiebaut said. “The SDS system will only make our water quality problems worse.”

Pueblo has requested temporary modifications for another five years, until 2018, after obtaining extensions from the original waiver in 1998.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 886 other followers

%d bloggers like this: