Iowa DOT seeks $9.7 million to avoid losing even more staff members

Iowa_welcome_sign_2008The Iowa Department of Transportation has lost 500 employees since 2011, and the department is asking for $9.7 million to prevent things from getting even more out of hand.

The Gazette has reported that Iowa DOT Director Paul Trombino said the funds are need to help keep the department stabilized. Trombino said the state Legislature hasn’t appropriated a salary adjustment since he began the job in 2010, and that’s led to the department having to make up for inflating benefits and wages by leaving positions vacant when someone leaves.

“The only way to absorb costs is to hold vacancies to hold staffing at levels I can afford,” Trombino said. “As a result, we have been decreasing employees in the agency since I’ve been here. … We’re the smallest we’ve ever been.”

Trombino asked Gov. Terry Branstad for the nearly $10 million in December just so the Iowa DOT can maintain the 2,699 employees it has right now.

“We decreased from where we were to a level we think puts us in a good position that allows us to be strategic,” he said.

Trombino enacted a $57 million savings plan in 2012 to make the department more efficient by implementing cost-saving measures like self-serve driver’s license kiosks. But there are some positions that are necessary to keep the roads in good shape and get projects done.

“I need a good amount of people to plow snow,” Trombino said. “That’s why we hire quite a few temporary workers, but at the end of the day, we need quite a few people to move plows around the state to keep roads clear and keep the economy moving.”