Furlough days won't close agencies

ATLANTA --- A day after Gov. Sonny Perdue called for every state worker -- including teachers -- to stay home three days in the next five months, government officials began sorting out the details.

Agencies won't close their doors completely during mass-furlough days. Instead, most are leaving staff scheduling to individual supervisors who can judge how to keep services to the public available.

Many agencies already have imposed worker furloughs as a way to save money in response to earlier budget trims. Mr. Perdue said that no worker should have to miss more than 12 paid days to comply with his latest request for cost cutting.

Each day of furloughs saves taxpayers $135 million when teachers, University System employees and all state workers are included. Teachers alone make up $33 million in savings, according to the governor's office.

"I know it hurts," Mr. Perdue said Tuesday. "A lot of people are hurt in this economy."

Mr. Perdue said his staff's latest projections show the state on track to be $900 million over budget if the furloughs and other cuts aren't implemented. And after adjusting for public-school enrollment growth, the state will have just $35 million in reserves, less than one day's operations for the government.

He asked every agency to recommend to him ways they can eliminate spending by 4 percent, 6 and 8 percent for the balance of this fiscal year and next year. In those meetings, Mr. Perdue will look at possible alternatives when staffing is critical, such as at the Department of Corrections, which won't be furloughing prison guards.

The public's safety won't be compromised, officials say.

It will be like each worker required an unexpected sick day, said Gordy Wright, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Public Safety.

Local State Patrol posts will furlough troopers when traffic is lightest in their areas, he said.

Reach Walter Jones at walter.jones@morris.com.

THE NUMBERS

13,400

State workers in the Augusta metropolitan statistical area (Richmond, Burke, Columbia, McDuffie, Aiken and Edgefield counties); some are South Carolina state employees, but the Labor Department includes them in Augusta's total

3,159

State workers in Richmond County

Note: Numbers exclude employees of the University System of Georgia and teachers

Sources: Georgia Department of Labor; State Personnel Administration