Oklahoma Corrections Department to furlough employees

June 14th, 2010 • By: admin News

The state Corrections Department plans to furlough all employees for 23 days in the upcoming fiscal year. Furloughs will also apply to correctional officers, Corrections Department Director Justin Jones said Thursday.

The state Corrections Department plans to furlough all employees for 23 days in the upcoming fiscal year.Furloughs will also apply to correctional officers, Corrections Department Director Justin Jones said Thursday.

The “F” Cell block in the original building at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, OK, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008. BY PAUL HELLSTERN

 However, some furlough days could be removed from the calendar if the agency receives about $30 million in supplemental funding, Jones said.

He said all employees will do one furlough day each month from July through February. “The furlough schedule after February will depend upon whether or not and or how much of a supplemental appropriation we receive when the next legislative session convenes.”
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Norman officials trying to find a way to avoid layoffs

June 1st, 2010 • By: admin Uncategorized

By Jane Glenn Cannon:

A plan is in the works to save jobs targeted by a proposed city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said amendments to the city manager’s proposed budget could reinstate 26 positions, eliminating 12 that are already vacant. The city manager’s budget recommends the elimination of 38 positions altogether, she said.

Rosenthal spoke about budget concerns Tuesday night at the first of two public hearings on the budget, which must be approved by June 8. More than 20 city employees attended the hearing, many of them speaking out about the proposed cuts.

“I understand there is a budget crisis out there, and I can understand the importance of freezing positions instead of hiring new people, but I can’t understand putting another single mother out of work,” employee Sheila Wiard said.

Wiard, a single parent who works for the municipal court, said she is among those targeted for layoffs. She said she chose to go to work for the city instead of keeping a more secure job in private industry, “because I saw it as having a lifelong potential of service to the city I believe in.”

Finance Director Anthony Francisco said a proposed budget of $134,540,647 is based on the premise that each employee would be furloughed 96 hours in the coming year and that positions would be cut.

“We’re not saying they are nonessential positions, but they are positions that are not as critical as some others. We’re trying to maintain the same level of services but do it with less money,” he said.

Rosenthal said budget amendments could save all but those that are already vacant, but that it hinged on cuts in other areas. The mayor said a sanitation rate increase also would be needed this year to keep some services at the same level.

By charter, Norman cannot raise any utility rate without a vote of the people. Residents could be asked to increase rates as early as this fall, Rosenthal said.

Francisco said the proposed budget for next fiscal year is based on no sales tax growth.

City employee Butch Crawford, who serves as president of the firefighters union, said the city ought to prepare its budget based on a 2 percent growth in sales tax “because that more accurately reflects what is going on in the economy.”

If the city will budget based on that projection and save those jobs targeted for elimination, Crawford said, then the employee unions will agree to no pay raises this year and to employee furloughs.

If the unions don’t agree to furloughs, Francisco said, then about $2.2 million more would have to be cut from the proposed budget so that it would balance. By law, the city is required to have a balanced budget, he said.

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Oklahoma corrections, public safety departments look for additional funds

May 24th, 2010 • By: admin News
Public safety agencies will need more money to run the state’s prison system and patrol the state’s highways than what is provided for them in a budget agreement released by legislative leaders last week.

Officials with the state Corrections Department and Department of Public Safety say they are working on money-saving measures, but they likely will need more cash to pay bills and protect the public for the 2011 budget year.

In a $6.7 billion budget agreement announced last week by Republican legislative leaders and Democrat Gov. Brad Henry, the budget for corrections was trimmed by 3 percent, and the budget for the Department of Public Safety was cut by 1 percent.

At the Corrections Department, the budget hole could be as much as $46 million, said Justin Jones, director.

“We are asking for a supplement that equals $46 million,” Jones said. “Public safety is compromised if we have to do maximum furloughs and continue to lay off employees.”

While the department’s budget was cut by $14 million, it also loses $21 million in one-time funds that were used to offset budget cuts in the current budget year. Increased contributions to employee retirement and health plans also have stressed the department’s budget, Jones said.

“We want to do our share, but as long as we have uncontrollable net offender growth, it’s impossible to balance the budget with unfunded mandates and continuous cuts,” Jones said.

In the past year, the number of people in prison has increased by 708, Jones said. At the same, the department’s staff has decreased by 180 through buyouts and layoffs. Four or five work centers across the state will be closed this year to help the department adjust to budget cuts.

“As the ratio of staff to inmates continues to increase, my staff will be in harm’s way,” Jones said. “When offenders believe we cannot protect them from each other they will engage in activities that they wouldn’t do, which could result in an array of actions that could put the public safety at risk.”

A supplemental budget increase will be needed to help the Corrections Department get through the year, said Rep. Randy Terrill, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary.

“We are approaching a point of critical mass,” said Terrill, R-Moore. “It’s to the point where we are really asking DOC personnel to do things that I’m not sure are really safe for them to be doing, and it’s placing them at risk.”

Terrill said he is working with the department to cut costs, but the department will likely need a large cash infusion to get through the 2011 budget year, which ends June 30, 2011.

The Department of Public Safety likely will avoid furloughs, but they also will need additional money to get through next year.

“We’re still in talks with leadership, but we’re comfortable that we’re looking at a furlough-free scenario,” said Maj. Rusty Rhoades, with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The Department of Public Safety has a $15 million gap that could be filled with extra dollars from a fee collected on wire money transfers.

Funds set aside for the construction of troop headquarters and the purchase of new cars now will be used to help fund operations, Terrill said.

“By the end of the day, they will be in a situation where they will be fine,” Terrill said.

“Are they going to have much of a cushion? No. We are operating on a very razor-thin margin. The goal is and always has been to make sure there are no furloughs and there is no loss of coverage in the state.”

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Henry, GOP leaders announce OK budget deal that reduces state spending by 7.6%

May 21st, 2010 • By: admin Uncategorized
SEAN MURPHY Associated Press Writer

7:35 PM CDT, May 20, 2010

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Democratic Gov. Brad Henry and Republican leaders of the House and Senate have agreed on a $6.68 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The deal announced Thursday by Henry, House Speaker Chris Benge and Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee reduces overall state spending by about 7.6 percent from last year.

The budget plan cuts spending for common education by 2.9 percent, while the higher education budget will be slashed by 3.3 percent.

Lawmakers had about $1.2 billion less to spend this year than they did in 2009.

The House and Senate still must pass several revenue enhancement measures, including fee increases and a moratorium on several tax breaks to make the budget balance.


OK regulatory agency members want to return pay

May 12th, 2010 • By: admin Uncategorized

From Associated Press on Yahoo Finance:

On Tuesday May 4, 2010, 5:08 pm EDT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two Oklahoma Corporation Commission members say they want to return part of their pay.

Commissioners Dana Murphy and Bob Anthony say they told Gov. Brad Henry on Tuesday that their intent is to match wage losses experienced by commission employees, who have taken four unpaid furlough days this year and must take must take four more by June 30.

Under state law, commissioners cannot reduce their pay or make gifts to the agency without going through the governor. Murphy and Anthony want Henry to accept their checks and direct the funds back to the commission.

Commission spokesman Matt Skinner says Anthony’s check for the four furlough days taken so far is $1,250 while Murphy’s check is for $1,092.30.

A spokesman for Henry didn’t immediately return an e-mail message seeking comment.

The commission is responsible for regulating energy, trucking, utilities, railroads and telecommunications and has about 450 workers statewide.

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January 27, 2010
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