An across-the-board budget cut, early retirement incentives and the closing of state institutions have been key factors in shrinking the state of Iowa workforce by nearly 15 percent — or 3,663 full-time-equivalent positions — over the past 10 years, a new report says.
The total full-time positions on the state payroll — not including those employed by the Board of Regents — has fallen to 20,721, according to a report from the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.
Despite that decrease, personnel costs have increased more than 11 percent, or $200.5 million, during that time period.
When adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, the Legislative Services Agency said personnel costs have decreased 3.7 percent, or $64.4 million, from 2008.
Personnel costs were $1.751 billion in fiscal 2008 and $1.952 billion in fiscal 2017 — and average annual increase of 1.2 percent.
Nearly all state agencies have experienced worker reductions in the past 10 years, but 90 percent of the decrease was concentrated in 10 departments.
The largest decrease in personnel was in the Department of Human Resources, which had a decrease of 1,360 full-time-equivalent jobs, from 5,755 to 4,395 in 2017, according to the LSA. That’s a 24 percent decrease.
Gov. Kim Reynolds’ spokeswoman Brenna Smith, noted that a significant portion of the decrease is due to actions of previous administrations.
“However, the governor and her team are always working with department and agency heads to find the most efficient and cost-effective ways to offer vital services and outreach to Iowans without compromising the quality they expect and deserve,” Smith said.
Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61 that represents state employees, doesn’t believe the reductions have been made without compromising services.
“We’re not providing the services Iowans need because we don’t have enough staff,” Homan said, adding jobs at Human Services and Corrections are not being filled.
“Is it good news for the taxpayers who live at the Iowa Veterans Home where they threatened to close a residence hall? No,” Homan said. “Is it good news for the (correctional officer) who was stabbed five times because we don’t have enough staff in our prisons? No.
“Is it good news for the 1 percent of this state? Probably.”
At the Department of Corrections, full-time equivalent jobs dropped nearly 14 percent, or 582 positions, and the Department of Transportation eliminated 454, or nearly 15 percent of its full-time equivalent positions, the report said.
Other “notable” reductions, according to the report, came in the Departments of Revenue and Workforce Development. Revenue had a reduction of 112 positions, 29 percent, while Workforce Development has decrease by 157 full-time equivalent positions, or 19 percent.
The Legislative Services Agency did not put a number on how many jobs were eliminated because of Democratic Gov. Chet Culver’s 10 percent across-the-board, general fund budget cut in October 2009. The $415 million reduction in funds “had a significant impact on the operating budgets of state agencies,” which likely triggered personnel cuts, the report said.
The report said 2,067 state workers accepted the early retirement incentives the Legislature approved in 2010, and 807 full-time positions were eliminated.
Another key factor in reducing jobs has been that the Legislature, since 2009, has not funded a “salary bill” each year to cover pay increases. This has required many agencies to find savings within their status quo budgets to fund salary increases.
And finally, closing the Toledo Juvenile Home and the Mental Health Institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda in 2015 and 2016 resulted in a reduction of approximately 331 full-time-equivalent jobs and cut $21.8 million in personnel costs.