Gov. Brian Kemp

Kemp wants Georgia agencies to explain any proposed state layoffs

The Kemp administration told state agencies Monday that the goal of the 4% spending cuts that take effect Oct. 1 is to streamline state government, not eliminate “core services to taxpayers” or implement across-the-board furloughs or layoffs.

Kemp ordered agencies to submit plans to cut 4% this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and 6% next year, which they did earlier this month.

Many big areas of spending — k-12 schools, Medicaid and transportation — are exempt from the governor’s order, which aims to save about about $200 million this year and $300 million next year. Kemp’s goal is to both prepare the state in case of an economic downturn and reallocate money so there is funding available for his priorities, including higher teacher pay.

“One of Governor Kemp’s highest priorities is finding ways to improve service delivery for our citizens while making government more efficient and accountable,” Kelly Farr, the director of the Office of Planning and Budget, wrote agency leaders in a memo obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Budget reductions are meant to identify opportunities to make state government more efficient through technology, by eliminating duplicative services, or by streamlining regulations, not through eliminating core services to taxpayers or across-the-board reductions in force or furloughs,” Farr wrote.

Many of the areas of state government affected by the cuts — for example, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Driver Services, the Georgia State Patrol and the GBI — spend most of their money on personnel. So a lot of agencies have targeted jobs or said they would cut “personal services.” Some have or will have vacant positions to cut. Others may have to resort to layoffs, which are called “reductions in force.”

“Agencies proposing reductions in force or services should be prepared to discuss their analysis used to determine that no other alternative cost savings were an option for your agency,” Farr wrote. “OPB expects that these agencies will have conducted a thorough analysis of personal services spending, including vacant positions and anticipated turnover, travel expenditures, including offsite intra‐agency retreats, open purchase orders, other operational expenditures that could be curtailed, or alternative fund sources that could be better leveraged.”

While it is up to agency directors to manage their departments, Farr added, “If you and your staff have determined that the only way to meet the reduced allotment in the near term is through an immediate reduction in force or agency services, please contact OPB to discuss your plan and explain in detail why alternative scenarios or other efficiencies are not an option.

“Please ensure that your agency follows proper protocols for any planned reductions in force.”

Some agencies gave Kemp and Farr very little information about how they would implement the cuts, and the administration will give “heightened scrutiny” to those who didn’t explain either what they are doing or how they determined their plan of action.

The guidance from Farr and the OPB comes about a week before agencies will begin receiving less money to spend.

It also comes the week the Georgia House and Senate are set to hold hearing that were originally aimed at sifting through the proposals.

However, the Kemp administration wanted to analyze the budget cut proposals first and made it clear to agency directors that it didn’t want them participating in the House and Senate hearings. So lawmakers instead will hear from economists about what to expect in the coming year.

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