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Law to Reduce State Supervisors Never Fully Implemented PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 18 November 2011 05:52

A law aimed at slashing the number of supervisors overseeing the work of Iowa state employees has never been fully implemented.

Lawmakers learned November 16 that Senate File 2088, the government reorganization bill signed into law in 2010, has languished because of a lack of feedback.

The law was designed to save the state money by finding efficiencies in government. It called for a “span of control,” with a goal of one supervisor for every 15 workers.

But Jeff Panknen, chief operating officer for the Iowa Department of Administrative Services’ Human Resources Enterprise, on November 16 told a panel of lawmakers that the Iowa Department of Management never gave feedback on a draft policy to implement the law in April 2010, so nothing was formalized.

“Span of control as an actual policy has not been implemented, but efforts are still being made to implement span-of-control improvements,” he said.

Nonetheless, Panknen said the state reduced its number of supervisors from 1,936 to 1,660, for a 14.26 percent decline, between January 2010 and last month. Having 276 fewer supervisors produced an estimated savings of more than $24 million in salaries and benefits, he said.

The state has 19,043 employees in its executive branch – 1,660 supervisors and 17,383 staffers, for a span of control of 1-to-10.5. Span of control varies from 1-to-24 in the governor’s office to 1-to-2.75 in the state auditor’s office.

Members of the legislature’s State Government Efficiency Review Committee questioned the effectiveness of requiring a certain supervisor-to-staff ratio in state agencies.

“It seems to me that there is some flaw in the law when we do an over-reaching average like we put in the law and expect it to work for everybody, because clearly, it doesn’t,” said state Representative Ralph Watts (R-Adel). “It’s a laudable goal, but it’s very difficult ... to get that to fit on a universal basis.”

Danny Homan, president of the American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Iowa Council 61, in November 2009 called on the state to enforce a “span of control” of one manager to every 14 state employees as a way to save money. He estimated that there was one supervisor for every seven or eight state workers at the time.

“We have too many supervisors,” he said. “We should get rid of some of them. We don’t need that many.”

Homan on November 16 criticized Governor Terry Branstad’s administration for not trying to reduce the number of supervisors in state government. He said the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs recently laid off 10 unionized state workers but hired two deputy directors. Data that Panknen presented Wednesday to the committee shows that department has a span of control of 1-to-7.

“We don’t need a span of control of 1-to-10 in state government,” Homan said. “One-to-15 is adequate – more than adequate.”