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Requests from agencies
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As you may have read, Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered state agencies to submit budget scenarios that reduce their state fund budgets by 4, 6 or 8 percent for the remainder of FY2011 and 6, 8, 10 percent for FY2012. This is no small feat because agencies have taken a median cut of approximately 18 percent since the FY2009 general budget.

Over the next few weeks, we will examine the agency requests for select agencies in this column. This week we start with the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Natural Resources.    

Department of Public Safety — budget request to the governor
In the FY2011 general budget, the Georgia Department of Public Safety received an appropriation totaling $165,103,019. Of these funds, 61.20 percent, or $101,043,195, were state general funds, 28.01 percent, or $46,238,934, were federal funds and 6.66 percent, or $10,998,391, were agency funds from this source.

For FY12, the department has requested $10,411,297 in additional state funds to replace lost federal funds, as they are going to lose $8,872,757 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus funds. The remaining lost funds were due to the loss of Byrne Formula Grant funds.

Stimulus funds end
As noted in this column previously, the federal stimulus funds will be expiring in FY11, which is a majority of the billion plus shortfall in the FY12 budget. With stimulus funds, the Department was able to fund the 87th Trooper School for 30 new cadets in FY10. With each trooper school, funds are added to the budget to cover the cost of training and salary of the new cadets.  

Once a class of cadets graduates, the funds added for that class of troopers are then used to pay the operating costs and salaries of new troopers. With the loss of these ARRA funds, the department must find a way to cover these additional operating costs and trooper salaries while maintaining funding in other areas to operate efficiently and effectively.

Reduction proposals
In an effort to continue to provide the necessary services with a reduced amount of funding, the Department has proposed several budget reductions for FY11 and FY12. The department has proposed to implement an undetermined number of employee furlough days to manage a portion of their budget reductions. In FY11, this proposal could results in savings between $1 million and $2 million. In FY12, this proposal could produce a savings of $2 million.

Trooper reductions
The department has also proposed saving money by reducing the number of troopers. While this proposed reduction could result in savings between $700,428 and $4,101,285, it could also negatively impact public safety.

In 2009, there were 814 troopers, which averaged out to one trooper for every 11,323 people and 143 miles of road in Georgia. At the time, Georgia already had fewer troopers per capita than any other state in the south. Although the department has yet to determine how many troopers it will cut, with a steadily growing population, any reduction in troopers would only lower coverage.

A reduction in troopers could also negatively impact revenue collections for the Department and counties across the state. All fines paid from state trooper citations, except those issued by the Motorcycle Enforcement Unit, are given to the local courts to cover associated court costs with the excess amounts given to the county where the citation was issued. Fines paid for Motorcycle Enforcement Unit citations are split between the state and county. The county receives funds to cover associated court costs and the excess is given to the Department of Public Safety.

In FY10, the Department of Public Safety collected $623,886 from Motorcycle Enforcement Unit fines. With fewer troopers, fewer citations will be issued, requiring the Department and counties to look elsewhere to fund services once paid for with revenue generated from trooper citations.

Department of Natural Resources – budget request to the governor
In FY11, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources received an appropriation totaling $254,085,760. Of these funds 35.86 percent, or $91,103,109 were state general funds, 18.33 percent, or $46,570,359, were federal funds, and 45.82 percent, or $116,412,292, were agency funds. The total state funds appropriated to the Department of Natural Resources were 11.4 percent less than the amount of state funds appropriated in FY10 and 30.4 percent less than in FY09.

In order to manage these reductions, the department has had to strive for greater efficiencies in some areas while reducing operations in other areas.

Reduction proposals
On June 30, the department closed its 33-room Red Top Mountain Lodge on Lake Allatoona in Cartersville, resulting in a savings of $158,000 for FY12. Additionally, the Department has proposed to reduce operations at other state park lodges during FY11 for a savings of $270,000. There are currently five state park lodges in operation. These lodges offer full service hotel accommodations for a nightly room rate, dining opportunities, meeting and wedding facilities in addition to all state park activities. Over the past several years the lodges have generated little, if any revenue, for the department. The department also has proposed to reduce operations at its nine public fishing areas from seven days a week to five days a week. This two-day reduction in operations could save the state $91,960 in FY11 and FY12.

Next up we will discuss the Department of Community Health.

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