OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Each of the state's 800 Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers may be forced to take six furlough days to make up the lower appropriation for upcoming fiscal year, the agency commissioner warned.
Public Safety Commissioner Kevin Ward said Monday unless more money is provided to the department, troopers will be placed on furlough to make up for a 6.5 percent budget cut for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The furloughs would generate a cost savings of about $1.8 million, Ward said.
"The only other thing that we've got left to cut is in the number of days that our guys are working," he said. "My concern is when we implement furlough days, you're pulling them off the road, and in a lot of our communities I get comments from the public about how they're not seeing troopers now and so we're just going to make that even worse."
Leaders are scrambling to find funds to prevent trooper furloughs, said Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on public safety and judiciary.
If enough money can't be found now, the Public Safety Department likely would receive additional funding when legislators return next year, he said. He conceded furloughs would occur without additional funding, but said he thinks it's unlikely the furloughs will be necessary.
"I would describe it as relatively remote, given the commitment of the House and of the Legislature to avoid any furloughs with regards to our troopers."
The Public Safety Department is targeted to receive about $6.3 million less for the 2010 fiscal year that starts July 1, compared with this fiscal year. The proposed $90.8 million budget, down from this year's budget of $97.1 million, is part of the agreement announced last week by legislative leaders and the governor.
The department plans to make up the rest of the reduced appropriations by not holding a trooper academy, expected to cost about $3 million; not building a Troop K headquarters for the Perry and Pawnee areas, expected to cost about $1 million; and continuing to make administrative and expenditure cuts, with the aim to save about $1 million, Ward said.
In addition, Ward said some of the department's 70 driver's license testing offices may have to be consolidated.