Posts Tagged ‘furloughs’

Nevada State Administrators Get Budget Details In All-Day Planning Session

By Sean Whaley | 3:28 pm March 15th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s top state administrators gathered together in meeting rooms and via the internet today to hear first-hand about Gov. Brian Sandoval’s initial plans for his 2013-15 budget.

The all-day meeting called “Budget Kickoff” was intended to provide instructions to state administrators on how to begin preparing their spending plans for the new two-year budget that will take effect on July 1, 2013.

State administrators were briefed today on the 2013-15 budget plan. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Agencies are expected to see flat budgets compared to the current spending plan after Sandoval surprised many around the state on Tuesday by announcing he would extend an expiring package of tax increases into the next budget cycle to avoid any further cuts to education and critical social services.

In announcing his intentions, Sandoval said: “I’m not going to pit kindergartners against senior citizens. I’m not going to pit higher ed students against people that need essential services.”

Agencies are also being directed to prepare their spending proposals using the new Priorities and Performance Based Budgeting process required as a result of legislation approved in the 2011 legislative session.

While the next budget won’t take effect for more than 15 months, the planning process begins early. Sandoval must submit his proposed budget to the Legislature by January 2013 in advance of the February 2013 legislative session.

“You know how difficult the last couple of sessions have been, and you understand the depth and the breadth of the cuts to state spending,” said Heidi Gansert, Sandoval’s chief of staff, in introductory remarks to the assembled administrators. “You’ve also heard about the positive economic news in recent months. Sales tax collections are up. Gaming revenues are improving. Unemployment is slowly declining. All signs that Nevada’s economy is turning the corner.”

But Medicaid caseloads have tripled over the past decade and new costs are looming due to mandates from the federal health care law, she said. The ballot proposals being circulated to raise taxes are not an option as far as Sandoval is concerned, Gansert said.

By continuing the sunsetting taxes, no Nevadans will pay any more in taxes in the next budget than they are now, she said.

“The governor has said we will grow our way out of this recession and we will, it’s just going to take more time,” Gansert said.

She had some good news for state employees, noting that the unpaid furloughs, 2.5 percent salary reductions, frozen merit pay increases and the elimination of longevity pay are all under review for the next budget for restoration if possible.

Janet Rogers, an economist with the Budget Division, said the national economy is improving, but slowly, and Nevada is lagging behind.

State Budget Office economist Janet Rogers talks about the economy as Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp looks on. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

“In the train that represents the national economy, Nevada is the caboose,” she said. “During the recession, for those of you who have been here, know, we had the largest employment drop of any state, the highest unemployment rate, the highest foreclosure rate and we were the last state to enter the recovery.”

State Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp talked about the potential impacts of the health care reform law, saying it will have a significant effect on the state’s Medicaid population.

The federal government is expected to pick up the costs of Medicaid recipients eligible under the law, but an influx of enrollees among residents who are already eligible for the health insurance program for low income, disabled and senior citizens is also expected, and these costs will have to be covered in part by the state, he said.

Nevada’s Medicaid caseload has increased from an average of 117,627 recipients in fiscal year 2001 to 285,732 in fiscal year 2011.

“Now the overall impacts of the health care reform aren’t clear,” Mohlenkamp said. “We don’t know what the number is going to be but we do know it’s significant, and we’ve done some broad estimations in our budget preparation.”

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Audio clips:

Sandoval Chief of Staff Heidi Gansert says the Nevada economy is improving:

031512Gansert1 :23 turning the corner.”

But Gansert says it will take more time to grow out of the recession:

031512Gansert2 :06 take more time.”

Budget Office economist Janet Rogers calls Nevada the caboose on the national economic recovery train:

031512Rogers :22 enter the recovery.”

State Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp says the new health care law will have big impacts on Nevada’s Medicaid program:

031512Mohlenkamp :11 our budget preparation.”

 

 

Sandoval Announces 5 Percent Pay Cut For State Employees Instead Of Furloughs

By Sean Whaley | 5:03 pm January 12th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval delivered the bad news in an email to state employees today: His budget will propose a 5 percent across-the-board salary reduction for state employees instead of continuing with a furlough program.

“We must also continue the suspension of merit pay and longevity pay,” he said in the letter.

The change means a slightly larger pay cut than the 4.6 percent reduction in the one-day-a-month unpaid furlough program in the current budget.

“In my meetings with Cabinet officers, I heard consistently that the furloughs are difficult to manage,” Sandoval said. “They result in poor customer service and leave employees with unfinished work that awaits their return after a furlough day. While the 5-percent reduction represents more of a sacrifice than the 4.6 percent, I am hopeful there is a trade-off in workload management.”

Sandoval pledged that he and his staff will take the same 5 percent pay cut.

“I  regret that my first communication with you is to deliver news of this kind,” he said.

Heidi Gansert, chief of staff to Sandoval, said the letter was sent to alert state employees of what is in the upcoming budget to be unveiled Jan. 24.

Besides being difficult to work with, Gansert said the furlough program affects customer service.

“There’s inequity,” she said. “There are some people who take the furloughs and there are others who have been exempted out of the furloughs. This puts everyone on an equal footing.”

Gansert acknowledged that moving to a pay reduction will mean more work and less pay than under the furlough program.

She also acknowledged that the pay cut proposal was not vetted with legislative leadership.

“We had not talked about this specifically,” Gansert said. “The governor had discussed repeatedly in various discussions . . . that we were going to do something that was furlough-like.”

Former Gov. Jim Gibbons also proposed a 6 percent pay cut for state employees in his 2009 budget. The Legislature opted instead for the furlough program.

Las Vegas City Manager Says Management Not Subject to Same Hours and Pay Reduction, Forced Furloughs as City Workers

By Elizabeth Crum | 7:14 am October 28th, 2010

At least one City of Las Vegas union member is not too happy this week, evidenced by my receipt of a rather pointed email which had attached to it an email sent Tuesday to executive/salaried city employees by city manager Betsy Fretwell.

You may recall that recently the Las Vegas City Employee Association agreed to a 38 hour work week with a two hour reduction in pay. In addition, forced furloughs during Christmas week dictated that city employees cannot take leave in order to make up the loss in pay.

In the email below, the city manager appears to deliver to the executive staff the good news that city management will not be subject to the same two hour reduction in pay as hourly city employees. Fretwell also informs management they may use leave to cover the  holiday furlough days if they so choose.

Here is the first page of the email containing the information above:

LV City email to execs 10 26 10

State Agency Overtime Costs Decline But Remain Drain On Nevada Budget

By Sean Whaley | 6:42 am July 21st, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada state agencies and their employees appear to have gotten the message about the budget crisis, at least as far as the accumulation of overtime is concerned.

A report presented to the Board of Examiners last week on the use of overtime and comp time by state agencies shows a 33 percent reduction in the period January through March compared to the previous quarter. The reduction is equal to about $2 million less in overtime costs.

For the first nine months of the 2010 fiscal year, from July 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010, overtime and comp time is down nearly $9 million compared to the same three quarters in the prior fiscal year, a 33.7 percent reduction.

Overtime remains a significant factor for most state agencies, however. The January to March quarter saw $4.1 million in overtime and comp time. For the first nine months of the 2010 fiscal year, overtime and comp time totaled $17.7 million and equaled 2.3 percent of base pay.

Even so, every major state agency reported a drop in overtime in the first nine months of fiscal year 2010 compared to the prior year.

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said the numbers are encouraging. But the elimination of state positions and the reductions in overtime are being reflected in a reduction in service levels, he said. Lines at Department of Motor Vehicle offices are getting longer, but Nevadans are probably going to have to get used to reduced services, at least for the short term, Goicoechea said.

“I think it is a trend,” he said. “It’s something we’re going to have to accept in these economic times we’re in. If you cut the people out, cut the overtime out, it will cut services.”

Some smaller agencies showed overtime increases. The Secretary of State’s office, for example, saw overtime jump by nearly 165 percent in the first three quarters of fiscal year 2010, compared to fiscal year 2009. The amount of overtime totaled just under $68,000. The agency reported a decline in overtime in the third quarter from the second of 27 percent.

The agency ranked 11th overall on overtime as a share of base pay at 1.9 percent.

Pam duPré, public information officer for the secretary of state’s office, said the overtime was made necessary when the office took over the responsibility of issuing business licenses on Oct. 1 with no new staff. More than 35,000 licenses were issued in the fourth quarter, she said.

The new responsibility came at the same time as mandatory furloughs and staff reductions, duPré said. The office won approval from the Legislature to reinstate a few positions to help with the new responsibility, which generates revenue to the state, she said.

Secretary of State Ross Miller authorized the use of overtime to ensure customers received an appropriate level of service, duPré said.

“If we can’t serve our business clients, whether they are seeking a new business license or an annual renewal, they might look to incorporate, and do business and pay their fees in another state,” she said.

The overtime will continue to decline, duPré said.

The Department of Transportation ranked first in the amount of overtime and comp time as a percentage of base pay at 6.3 percent. The agency also ranked first in dollars spent on overtime and comp time, totaling $3.9 million in the first nine months of fiscal year 2010.

The agency has reduced overtime in the first nine months of the 2010 fiscal year, however, by nearly 30 percent compared to fiscal year 2009. The agency does not depend on the general fund for support.

The Department of Corrections reduced its overtime significantly over the previous fiscal year, cutting costs by nearly 50 percent. That could change however, as the agency implemented furloughs for correctional officers starting July 1.

Agency Director Howard Skolnik said overtime costs appear to be increasing since the mandatory one-day-a-month furloughs have been instituted for employees. Skolnik he will ask the Board of Examiners in August to approve an exemption to the furlough requirement for correctional officers, which would be expected to reduce overtime costs.

The department is also filling a number of vacant positions that will help reduce the need for overtime, he said.

The 2009 Legislature imposed the furloughs beginning July 1, 2009 for most state agencies as a way of saving personnel costs to help balance the budget.

___

Audio clips:

SOS Spokeswoman Pam duPré on reason for overtime:

072010DuPre1 :20 business clients needed.”

Pam duPré on need to provide good service to business community:

072010DuPre2 :13 in another state.”

Corrections Director Howard Skolnik on plans to fill vacant positions:

072010Skolnik1 :24 don’t need overtime.”

Gibbons Round-Up

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:01 pm March 17th, 2010

A quick trifecta of items about the governor:

In which he formed an education task force headed by Elaine Wynn and Dan Klaich.

In which he explains his executive order (and veto) re: furloughs.

In which he writes a letter to Shelley Berkley saying leave health care to the state.

Furloughs, Four Day Work Week

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:50 pm February 27th, 2010

The Appeal‘s Dornan and Duggan wrote the scoop on furloughs and the four day work week this morning.  Snippets:

The governor and lawmakers have tentatively agreed not to increase the furloughs imposed on state workers.

State workers were hit with an eight-hour unpaid furlough each month during the 2009 Legislature. That translated to a 4.6 percent pay reduction and was very unpopular with employees.

Gov. Jim Gibbons’ original plan to balance the budget in the face of an $888 million shortfall called for the eight-hour monthly furlough for all state workers to be increased to 10 hours, a move that drew protests from state workers who say they were being hit harder than other public employees.

And:

The decision will add about $6.8 million to the total revenues needed to offset the shortfall.

Meanwhile, the Senate passed the bill that would close most state offices on Fridays. The potential change to furlough time would mean the Senate would have to reconsider it.

And:

The most recent version of the bill also appears to strip the furlough exemption given to the Department of Corrections.

The Senate, which passed the measure in a 19-2 vote, sent the legislation over to the Assembly for consideration late Friday where a vote wasn’t expected until this morning.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:22 pm February 11th, 2010

Thought I was done working, but took one more peek at Twitter and saw Ralston posted this a short time ago:

State employees asked to choose lesser of three evils

By Jon Ralston · February 11, 2010 · 8:30 PM

That’s what the state personnel department asked of state employees today in a confidential survey requested by lawmakers. Here’s the key question with the three choices:

In the face of the current and projected State budget shortfall, emergency measures must be taken to swiftly address State employee payroll costs. The options listed below are under consideration and would be in addition to the current furlough.

Please rank these options in order of your preference:

(1 = most preferred, 3 = least preferred)

4/10′s work week with additional 2 hour furlough

6% salary reduction

Eliminate holiday pay

Hm.  If it were me, I’d…do the math.  Although the four 10s would be tempting regardless.

Furloughs = Higher Costs?

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:23 am February 9th, 2010

Amidst all the Gibbons-related commotion yesterday, I missed this piece about furloughs and subsequent overtime costs by the RGJ‘s Anjeannette Damon.  A snippet:

In the six months since furloughs were imposed in July, some agencies have doubled, even quadrupled, their overtime compared with the previous six months.

The overtime cost has caused many lawmakers to question whether the furlough program is saving as much as intended, as they face a $880 million shortfall in the current budget.

There’s more; it’s informative; go read it.

Hat Tip:  RalstonFlash daily e-newsletter @ 3:59 on 2/8/10

Furlough Exception Granted to State Correctional Employees

By Sean Whaley | 12:50 pm November 10th, 2009

CARSON CITY – The state Board of Examiners voted unanimously today to exempt correctional officers and other essential personnel with the Nevada Department of Corrections from a one-day-a-month furlough requirement.

The exemption was approved only for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2010. The agency had already been exempted on a month-to-month basis for furloughs that began for most state employees on July 1.

Howard Skolnik, director of the department, identified areas of savings in his budget that will generate the $3.8 million needed to cover the cost of eliminating the furloughs for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

The Board of Examiners, made up of Gov. Jim Gibbons, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, approved the proposal.

Skolnik said the money to cover the cost of keeping correctional officers working full-time will come from several sources, including lease payments from inmates for their use of gyms and prison store space. The payments would come from the inmate welfare fund, which generates revenue from sales of items to inmates. Inmates are already paying for the equipment and staffing at these types of facilities, so it seems logical to charge for the use of the space as well, he said.

If the furlough exemption is to be continued in the second fiscal year of the budget, additional savings will be required. One potential source of revenue is the leasing of the Southern Nevada Correctional Center in Jean to a private firm to house inmates, Skolnik said. The state closed the facility in June 2008.

The GEO Group Inc., a private correctional management company based in Florida, has expressed an interest in using the facility for a payment of $2.5 million to the state for one year beginning July 1, 2010, he said.

The 2009 Legislature approved the furlough program as a way to balance the state budget. Gibbons had proposed a straight pay cut instead.

Skolnik said the Legislature never asked him about the furlough concept and whether it would work for his department. The agency is already understaffed to start with by about 15 percent, he said.

Furloughs, which would reduce staffing levels by another 5 percent, would increase the risk of injury and death to staff because key positions and services could not be provided, Skolnik said.

“From my perspective furloughs for correctional officers are not a viable alternative,” he said.

Furloughs, Staffing Cuts at State Psychiatric Hospital Prompt Employee Protest

By Sean Whaley | 10:23 am October 21st, 2009

CARSON CITY – Staffing cuts, furloughs and a mandated eight-hour work schedule all contributed to a state employee protest outside a Las Vegas mental health facility on Saturday, a state official said.

Harold Cook, administrator of the Nevada Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services, said in an interview Monday he appreciates the concerns of employees who work at the agency’s psychiatric hospital facilities. But suggestions that patient or employee safety have been jeopardized because of staffing reductions and furloughs are not borne out by the evidence, he said.

The protest was organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union Local 4041 and drew more than 100 demonstrators and was directed at staffing issues at facilities where mentally ill adults receive treatment. There are 234 beds in three buildings, including 190 beds at the new Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital at Jones and Oakey boulevards.

“We’ve been working on a reduced staffing level for nine months at least, and I can say at this point I’ve seen no effect on the number or types of incidents regarding injuries to staff or patients,” Cook said.

Dennis Mallory, chief of staff for the union, disagreed with Cook, saying today he believes incidents of patient-on-patient and patient-on-staff violence have increased since staffing levels were reduced last year and that staffing levels are a factor in the incidents.

“We understand the funding shortfall, that we won’t see any pay increases, no step increases, no longevity pay,” he said. “But at what point do we accept a compromise in pubic safety and security.”

The hospital employees believe Health and Human Services Department Director Mike Willden should seek an exemption from the mandatory one-day-a-month furlough for the hospital staff, which would be a first step to dealing with the problem, Mallory said.

Cook said an exemption from the furloughs is not an option the agency is willing to pursue because it would result in cuts to client services. The savings from furloughs are built into the budget and if there are exemptions, the money must be made up elsewhere, he said.

Cook said the hospital, which cares for mentally ill adults who have been found to be a danger to themselves or others, lost 81 in-patient positions due to required spending reductions. Those positions included nurses, administrators and housekeeping employees. The mandatory furloughs have had the effect of reducing staffing by another 4.6 percent.

The 2009 Legislature approved 10 certified nursing assistant contract positions to assist in covering the furlough absences reducing the total eliminated positions to 71 in the current budget.

The staffing ratio now is 2.1 full-time-equivalent positions per bed compared to 2.4 prior to the changes, Cook said. The staffing ratio is still higher than many private facilities, he said.

“We’re not operating this facility at any staffing level considered to be unsafe,” Cook said. “But the nature of this business is there is always risk.”

Mallory said the CNAs are not trained to deal with mentally ill patients. The money for the positions should be freed up to hire trained staff, he said.

“I’d rather have one psychiatric nurse than three CNAs,” Mallory said.

Cook said the reduced staffing has also necessitated a decision to require all employees to work eight-hour shifts. Up to now, some employees have worked 10- or 12-hour shifts instead but there aren’t enough positions to allow for flexible working schedules at this time.

“At this point we’re all kind of stuck with a situation that is to nobody’s liking and we’re trying to maintain the operation as effectively as possible,” Cook said. “That means not cutting client services and maintaining the health and safety of our patients and employees.”

Mallory said the employees would like to be part of the decision-making process. More than 100 have signed a grievance regarding the staffing levels, a demonstration of the depth of the concerns, he said.