Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser submitted to the Joint Budget Committee on Friday a proposed budget that would put more money into the state’s anonymous school tip line and hire three additional administrators as workloads rise.
The Safe2Tell program needs almost $130,000, Weiser wrote lawmakers, to fill a gap between the cost of its responsibilities and the amount appropriated.
“If this request is not funded, the [Department of Law] will be compromised in meeting the growing demands on the reporting and material distributions,” the budget noted.
Safe2Tell has nine full-time employees who address the anonymous tips about behavior that threatens students. Two of those employees perform community engagement.
A 2016 bill expanded the marketing of Safe2Tell to preschools, elementary schools, middle schools and other youth groups. However, lawmakers appropriated $83,150 less than what the program needed.
Further reductions came after dispatch services moved to a different department and began accepting reports online and through apps. This change and the increase in reports that followed sapped another $46,750 from the Department of Law’s budget.
The night before submitting his request, Weiser responded on Facebook to the report of a ninth Arapahoe High School student suicide since 2013.
“The #1 tip to our Safe2Tell program is suicide threats,” he wrote. “We are committed to doing all we can to raise suicide awareness and help save lives.”
Among Weiser’s other priorities, his largest requested increase of more than $353,000 comes for three additional administrative employees. With a budget of nearly $93 million and with 513 employees, the budget notes that turnover in the last five years has risen from 9.5% to nearly 15%.
An additional human resources specialist could assist with the heightened churn of employees.
“The immediate impact will be an increased response time to posting and hiring for vacant positions,” the budget notes, “thus allowing the department to better support the client agencies with their legal needs and minimize the impact on existing staff having to cover the workloads of vacant positions.”
Weiser also requested $300,000 for hiring cybersecurity and IT professionals to handle the increased workload from a 2018 bill requiring companies to report data breaches to the attorney general’s office within 30 days of the attack.
Although he did not provide details in his letter, Weiser requested that lawmakers set aside $6.5 million for an anticipated bill that would potentially lower the amount of nonviolent offenders in jail awaiting trial.