The Delaware Joint Finance Committee is in full swing this month! As different state agencies give their presentations for the FY2020 state budget for Delaware, the legislators on the committee have to make some big decisions between now and June 30th. Alexandra Sparco, the legislative aide for the JFC Chair Quinton Johnson, gave an overview of what’s been going on in the public hearings for the first week. I hope to get these for all the presentations as they give an excellent overview of what different state agencies are looking to carry out in the next fiscal year.
Good afternoon legislators,
Rep. Johnson asked that I send out weekly updates to all caucus members to inform them of highlights from the JFC hearings.
This past week of hearings (January 29th through January 31st) focused on the Statewide Financial overview, budget proposal presentations from various state agencies and groups, and reviews of each budget proposal presentation by analysts at the Office of the Controller General.
The most up-to-date JFC schedule: https://legis.delaware.gov/Committee/JointFinance
All available presentations from the hearings will be posted here: https://legis.delaware.gov/Committee/JointFinance/Agency-Budget-Presentations
Statewide Financial Overview
OMB Director Mike Jackson gave an overview of the Governor’s proposed budget and Statewide Financial Overview for FY2020. Overall, the goal is to direct one-time resources towards one-time expenses to help lessen the need to cut certain funding when there is a deficit.
There is a 3.8 percent growth in the General Fund Operating Budget, about half of the increase goes towards schools and employees (high needs in Corrections, Labor, DHSS, and DSCYF).
State employees would get a $1k increase and teachers would receive a 2 percent increase, the same as last year’s proposal. Director Jackson mentioned the $1k increase would amount to a more than 5 percent salary increase (when last year’s increase is included) for the lowest paid state employees.
Cost-control measures included reducing the fleet rate, eliminating redundant services, and bringing back a reward program as part of recruitment/retention to allow for more innovation at agency levels instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. Additionally, Director Jackson mentioned state employee benefits are moving in the right direction to bring the costs under control.
The executive branch does not recommend a Grant-in-Aid increase and has backed off one-time expenses. Their proposal includes setting aside $92.1 million above constitutionally mandated savings in case of economic downturns and unexpected needs.
They are currently unsure of the federal government shutdown’s effects on the state economy and revenue forecasts. In terms of numbers, 40 percent of state revenue is in relation to the economy, 60 percent is not.
Office of Management and Budget
Overall, the operating budget would be slightly lower than years past due to the creation of Department of Human Resources and the resulting transition of HR-related responsibilities from OMB to DHR.
OMB is looking to transition some fleet vehicles to green electric vehicles and will be implementing a new work-order system to track maintenance needs and requests in 87 state-owned buildings. Other initiatives included increasing workforce diversity and filling hard-to-fill jobs in maintenance-type fields.
OMB does not have the space for all employees to be in State-owned buildings, but they try to make investments in leased spaces. One person currently manages all leases for the state, many are set to expire in the next five years, and they will be bringing in a broker to help renegotiate them.
It was mentioned that investments are necessary to help maintain, repair, and improve various buildings. After Labor Day weekend rain, it cost over $700,000 to remediate various buildings.
Department of Human Resources
Secretary Saundra Ross Johnson led the presentation. She explained the mission and vision of DHR and discussed their efforts to centralize human resources functions across state government.
Discussed paid family leave for state workers and the pay raise/pension bonuses.
Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens
Wendy Strauss introduced new Chairperson Ann Fisher. An overview was given on what the Council does. They are requesting money be transferred back to their travel reimbursement budget, as it is the only reimbursement members receive for their service and it effects their ability to participate in efforts.
Questions were asked about how the lack of funds has effected people in the past year. An example was given of a blind member who has not been able to receive reliable transportation, and how they were able to get amplification devices for partially deaf individuals but do not have funds for a sign language translator.
Delaware Institute for Veterinary Medical Education
Dr. Barczewski led the presentation. No slideshow or additional visual materials were displayed.
Delaware does not have a Veterinary medical school, so this program provides for two seats at University of Georgia and two seats at Oklahoma State for Delaware students. The students meet certain requirements for admission and Delaware subsidizes their tuition so the students pay the equivalent of in-state tuition. The presenters said this helps the students because starting salaries and expected debt after vet school does not even out.
About 40 percent of students return to Delaware after the program, but this is due to the students deciding to go into specialties that do not have opportunities in Delaware (such as exotic animals).
It was mentioned how the program helps give Delaware students an edge because vet schools can be harder to get into than medical school. Additionally, it was mentioned how the program has cut some costs. They used to deal with Virginia Tech but VT was charging more for the seats.
Criminal Justice Council & Statistical Analysis Center / Domestic Violence Coordinating Council
CJC Executive Director Chris Kervick, SAC Director Spencer Price, and DVCC Executive Director Maureen Monagle led the presentations.
During the CJC portion of the presentation, there was discussion about re-entry programs and recidivism reduction. A concern was brought up regarding a statement that the CJC brings back more for every state dollar spent, Chris Kervick said he would follow up with the committee members who would like more information.
During the SAC portion of the presentation, there was some discussion about Delaware’s high recidivism rate and what could be done better. Comparing the data to other states is a bit difficult because it might look like the same category (recidivism) but they may have different laws and measure different data.
The DVCC wants to make training available online and accessible without cost burden to agencies.
Executive Director Earl McCloskey spoke on behalf of DELJIS. DELJIS has not increased staff since 2005.
Some cost-saving measures include the electronic warrant process, which allows for electronic signatures and sending documents through emails instead of requiring physical signatures and faxing the documents. Officers can also use Skype from police vehicles and bring arrestees before a judge without leaving the car.
Some recent initiatives include reformatting the reports police officers must fill out after encounters to include when weapons are used, what weapons are used, and what force is used.
Delaware Advisory Council on Career and Technical Education
Executive Director Dr. Manera A. Constantine led the presentation.
Several questions and concerns brought up by committee members included Perkins funding, restrictions on funding use, transparency of the council, and report.
Department of State
Secretary Jeffrey Bullock led the presentation.
It was mentioned that $1.55 billion was directed to the General Fund in FY18.
Library use is thriving due to computers, new programming, and other resources. The Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear is ranked in the top 5 percent of Veterans Cemeteries nationwide. Additionally, the Division of Tourism has won national awards.
Mentioned efforts included expanding the Veterans home in Milford and moving toward a Single Sign On (SSO) experience for state services.
Department of Elections
Commissioner Elaine Manlove led the presentation. She began by speaking about the new voting machines compared to the current system. She had brought one of the new machines with her and led members of the JFC through a hands-on demonstration.
Questions were asked about how write-in votes will be handled, how current polling locations with inadequate resources and accessibility will be able to handle the new technology, and if the machines will be connected to the Internet.
Pollbooks will be connected to the internet, the machines will not be. Commissioner Manlove said the process to choose the machines was long and thorough and involved a committee. A report that covers most concerns about the new system was previously released.
The funding request from DoE includes funding for half of a Deputy Attorney General. Public comment asked to put a hold on more funding for the new voting system until we know how much it will cost in ten years.
University of Delaware
University President Dennis Assanis led the presentation and began by highlighting UD’s “Access to Excellence,” which includes efforts to improve diversity in the student population and faculty, programs for veterans, and the Spectrum Scholars program for students with autism.
The SEED program is doing well, with 87 percent of students moving on to the Newark campus to receive a Bachelors degree or beyond.
Part of their ask included phasing in $9 million over four years ($2.25 million per year) in order to cover full tuition and fees for Delaware families making $75,000 or less, and partial tuition for families who make above $75,000 to about $100,000.
The members of the JFC asked several questions, including about how they are working to keep tuition costs under control when it has apparently risen beyond the rate of inflation, and how they are working to manage large class sizes. President Assanis mentioned the “Blue Hen Success” program, which allows for instructors to monitor student progress, be alerted when a student drops below a certain benchmark, and reach out to offer help.
Discussion around how some students in the Associates to Bachelors program are not finishing their programs in four years, contrary to UD’s “Finish in Four” initiative.
Department of Technology and Information
Chief Information Officer James Collins led the presentation. They began by displaying a video from Deloitte about digital efforts in Texas to show an example of what they would like to accomplish with Delaware’s digital efforts.
Goals included eliminating broadband deserts by 2020. DTI is currently working on infrastructure, with private companies to provide the actual broadband services. They will also be requiring broadband service providers to offer lower-cost service plans for low-income households.
Additional discussion included the statewide effort to consolidate IT services under the DTI umbrella.
The committee asked various questions about information security, including hacking, email safety, opening email attachments, and voting machine security.
Brigadier General Michael Berry led the presentation.
It was mentioned their funding ask will help with keeping personnel at strength and with incentives towards building morale.
Recently elected State Treasurer Colleen Davis led the presentation.
Turnover in the office has not been high in the office transition. The only significant changes are Deputy Treasurer and Darlene Cox, new Administrative Manager.
The majority of the discussion centered around how the state accepts credit card payments and how to comply with credit card processing security standards. The State Treasurer’s office has brought in new people with banking and credit card experience to help comply with the industry best practices.
Legislative Aide to Rep. Quinn Johnson
Legislative Aide to Rep. William Bush
Delaware House of Representatives