Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Officials say efficiency is no longer an option for state services

Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey (left) and State Court Administrator Gerald Marroney talk at the Strategic Issues Program. Photo: Jeffrey Haessler

Doing the same thing and depending on the same funding won’t get it done any longer when it comes to state services. The leaders of Colorado’s courts and higher education told a University of Denver panel Oct. 7 that a new standard of efficiency and streamlining is the only way to succeed in the today’s economic realities.

Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey and State Court Administrator Gerald Marroney joined University of Colorado President Bruce Benson and Colorado Department of Higher Education Executive Director Rico Munn for a meeting with the University of Denver Strategic Issues Program panel.

Mullarkey and Marroney detailed how the state courts — already grappling with a growing caseload — has embarked on a massive effort to cut down on paperwork and eliminate duplicate services by turning to computer systems.

And Benson told the panel that as a businessman, he recognizes that continually raising tuition and continuing antiquated programs in higher education is no way to run an institution.

“We’re not going to price ourselves out of the market,” he said, recognizing that recently proposed 9.5 percent tuition hikes can’t be the norm. “We’ve got to change the way we do everything.”

Both Benson and Munn said they are concerned over a growing achievement gap between white students in Colorado and the growing number of Hispanic students who are falling behind. The gap is unacceptable, Munn said, and it’s up to the state to rectify it.

Benson said improving the state’s largest public university system’s financial picture will depend on new efficiencies, new business partnerships and attracting more international and out-of-state students.

In the court system, Mullarkey and Marroney said the system they started in lacked sufficient computer systems and often had individuals in different departments entering the same information into databases over and over again. A traffic ticket written on paper by an officer would be entered into a police department’s system, then a court system, then a Department of Motor Vehicles system and possibly into a corrections or probation system. With fixes under way, that information should be entered once and then shared across all platforms, they said.

“We think it’s ridiculous for the state to be paying employees to be entering the same information,” Marroney said.

Mullarkey said that despite new efficiencies and court fees, the system still depends on state funds. A depleted court system, she said, goes far beyond affecting criminal defendants. While they await trial, defendants may still pose a threat to public safety, and a crippled civil or probate system causes huge backlogs and delays for businesses in civil litigation and even affects children caught in custody or foster care situations.

Munn, leading a panel of experts charged with making recommendations for improving the state of Colorado’s higher education system that is due in November, said he has looked at everything from tuition hikes to efficiencies. Nothing is free, he said, and no system can stand unchanged in a changing world. Demographics change, technology changes, educational expectations change, and the state’s system needs to change with it, he said.

“We’ve got to start making some decisions in this state in terms of what we want to do with higher education,” Munn said.

The nonpartisan SIP panel of leaders in government, academia, business and public service will explore all facets of state governance in the coming year, from expenditures and funding to states’ relationships with federal and municipal governments. Additionally the panel will study the way sub-national governments work in other countries. Panel Director Jim Griesemer says he expects to have findings and recommendations by next summer.

The Strategic Issues Panel’s next meeting will be Oct. 21 from 8 a.m.–noon on the sixth floor of DU’s Daniels College of Business. The public is invited to attend.


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