Slowly shrinking the size of State government

Historic City News has learned that although staff reduction plans in Tallahassee are trickling in from various state agencies, eliminating 4,358 positions and reducing the authorized size of the state’s workforce by about 3.6 percent, there are still not as many layoffs as were seen last year.

By this time last year, when lawmakers cut closer to 5,000 positions, 1,700 employees knew their positions would be eliminated and about a quarter of those had been placed elsewhere in state government, Department of Management Services spokesman Kris Purcell said in a report that appeared in The Current.

This budget shortfall in this year’s $69.9 billion State budget was not as large as last year and the spending cuts were not as deep.

This year’s figure is substantially smaller, though it could grow as more agencies release their plans. The reductions have come more slowly this year in part because many of the positions eliminated in the budget are vacant. Still, some state workers will have to leave their jobs later this month as the new budget goes into effect.

The Office of Financial Regulation is losing 23 investigators as it reduces its staff by 81 positions, or 18 percent, when it closes branch offices in Pensacola, Jacksonville, Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale. Spokeswoman Amy Alexander said in an e-mail that 32 of those positions are vacant, and another 42 employees are being offered positions in other areas, though it’s not yet clear whether all of them will move.

The Legislature also eliminated 20 positions from the rest of the Division of Workers Compensation, of which seven are vacant, Department of Financial Services spokeswoman Anna Alexopoulos said.

The Department of Health is expecting to lose 138 filled positions as it closes A.G. Holley Tuberculosis Hospital, and is also trimming positions at county health departments, though many of those reductions were aimed at long-term vacancies.

The outsourcing of custodial services at Florida State Hospital accounts for most of the reductions at the Department of Children and Families, but the agency is also eliminating dozens of workers who help ensure people are receiving social service benefits after applying for them.

Spokesman Joe Follick said in an-email that the agency is implementing an automated system to conduct background checks on people who apply for benefits and as a result, “we expect our accuracy to continue to increase.” DCF is also beefing up its staffing in certain areas, such as hiring more child protective service investigators, he said.

The reductions were generally spread across different agencies, with the exception of the Department of Corrections, which bore nearly half the total reduction in the state budget.

Spokeswoman Ann Howard said the department, which is closing 11 prisons and work camps across the state, had amassed enough vacancies to at least offer a position to each employee affected by the consolidation, though some chose to retire or look for other work rather than relocate. Some positions are also being consolidated as the department shifts from 8-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts for correctional officers.

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