From:                                         Trause, Paul

Sent:                                           Wednesday, September 07, 2011 2:01 PM

Subject:                                     Budget and Layoff Decisions

 

Over the past several months, I have talked with many of you personally about our budget situation and kept you informed of our revenue status through a series of emails.  As you know, we have no choice but to reduce the size of our agency.  We have turned this agency’s budget inside out to determine which services to keep and which to reduce or eliminate.  The task has been made extra difficult due to the lack of congressional agreement on a federal budget for the next federal fiscal year. 

 

You have always done an outstanding job of helping people, often under difficult circumstances.  These reductions are hard, but we will come through this period because of your commitment to and focus on our customers.  Employment Security is a strong and vibrant agency that is vital to the economic health of our state. 

 

In the following message, I will explain how we prioritized the major functions of our agency – and how those priorities shaped our budget decisions.

 

Doing less with less

Based on the best information available to us, we will reduce our operations budget by about  $51 million, or 16 percent, for the two-year state budget period that began on July 1, 2011. 

 

That’s a big cut, and I want to assure you that we will not be asking you to do more with less.  In reality, we will have to “do less with less” – and our challenge is to determine the right less to do without undermining progress toward our long-term goals.

 

Priorities and themes

Our top priority is to preserve field operations and direct customer service as much as possible.  It’s crucial that we continue to pay unemployment benefits quickly and help job-seekers quickly find work that will be as stable as possible, provide for their families and offer the opportunity for career growth. 

 

We will do the following.

1.      Reduce the budget for customer services by a smaller percentage than administrative services, and cut management by a larger percentage than other employees.

 

For example, the budget for WorkSource field operations will be cut by 12%.  By comparison:

ü  WorkSource administrative functions in Olympia (which includes the WorkSource Standards & Integration Division and the Employment & Career Development Division’s central office) will be cut by more than 20%.  We will greatly reduce the policy functions, move some auditing functions from ECDD to WSID, and eliminate some program management, among other things.

ü  At least 25 percent of the permanent Washington Management Service (WMS) positions in the Olympia/Lacey headquarters offices will be eliminated.

ü  Other administrative divisions (i.e., Commissioner’s Office, Human Resources and the Budget, Policy & Research Division) also will be cut by a larger percentage than our agency’s customer-service functions (see details below).

 

2.      Preserve IT capacity, since so many of our ideas for cutting the budget and improving customer service rely on creating or improving our technology systems.  We are reducing the IT Division by approximately 10 percent, largely by abolishing vacant positions and reducing non-essential purchases.  We will reinvest the savings in “transformational changes” (discussed below) and changes that are needed to implement some of the consolidations.

 

3.      Consolidate and centralize similar functions that currently exist in more than one division.  For example, budget functions, research, graphic design and other similar functions that are scattered across multiple divisions will each be consolidated.  UI Tax also will consolidate and restructure several functions. Some of these changes will result in staff reductions and some won’t – but ultimately, I believe it will improve efficiency and quality.

 

Budget cuts by division

Here’s an overview of how much each division will have to cut. Next week, each of the six assistant commissioners will distribute emails describing in more detail how their divisions will be affected.

 

ü  Budget, Policy & Research Division: 20 percent, $5.2 million

ü  Commissioner’s Office: 13 percent, $901,000

ü  Employment & Career Development Division: 14 percent, $15.8 million (20% cut to central office, 18% cut in WorkFirst, and 12% cut to field operations)

ü  HR Division: 18 percent, $1.6 million

ü  IT Division: 10 percent, $6.2 million

ü  Unemployment Insurance Division: 18 percent, $19.9 million

ü  WorkSource Standards & Integration Division: 23 percent, $1.7 million

 

Agency-wide total: 16 percent, $51.3 million

 

Hiring restricted

We will restrict hiring in the coming months in order to preserve vacancies that will serve as options for employees whose positions are being eliminated. However, we will not impose a total hiring freeze; in isolated cases, a few new positions will be created due to strategic budget choices and consolidations.  Any hiring that occurs will be closely supervised by the Budget and Human Resources offices to preserve layoff rights.

 

Transformational changes

In addition to the changes I described above, we need to make fundamental changes that will help us do less with less.  I am committed to making some bigger transformations that were recommended by the budget teams in June.  The teams identified four major reforms that we must better define in order to determine concrete changes that we can make over the next 6, 12 and 18 months.

 

The four are:

1)      Create a more integrated technology system for serving unemployment-insurance claimants and WorkSource customers.

2)      In-person service is our most powerful resource.  Going forward, we will look for ways to focus face-to-face services on customers who are motivated to find work and want to work with us. 

3)      Identify and implement opportunities to use automated, “remote” services where they may be more efficient or more effective than face-to-face visits.  The first priority of this project will be the services we provide as part of job-search review.

4)      Revamp how we provide unemployment-insurance services to employers, such as tax audits and collections.

 

These ideas will require more time to plan and develop.  I will invite employees throughout Employment Security to help us make these changes, and will share more details about that process by the end of the month.

 

Timeline for January layoffs

During the current two-year budget period, we will reduce our workforce about 390 FTE (full-time equivalent); we won’t know exactly how many positions this represents until October.  Nearly all of the reductions will occur in the first year of the biennium.  In addition to the WorkFirst layoff that is currently under way, we expect to carry out two agency-wide layoffs – the first in mid-January 2012 and the second next summer.  Here is the timeline for the January layoff decisions and notices.

 

Round 1 of January layoffs

Round 1 of the January layoff involves positions that will be eliminated.  Many of these employees will have options to other ESD jobs, including positions that currently are filled by another employee.  (A complete description of the layoff process is posted on InsideESD.)

 

Round 1 of January 2012 layoffs

Oct. 21

Affected employees receive at-risk letters.

Oct. 24-28

Online workshops to help at-risk employees complete their profiles and supplemental questions.  (The profile and questions will be used by H.R. to determine bumping options.)

Nov. 4

Final date for at-risk employees to complete their profiles and supplemental questions.

Dec. 2

Employees receive their layoff letters, listing their formal and informal options.

Dec. 7

Deadline for employees to choose their layoff option.

Dec. 14

Employees learn which layoff option they received.

Jan. 16

Employees report to their new position, if granted

 

Round 2 of January layoffs

This round involves employees who will be bumped by Round 1 employees who have more seniority.  Many Round 2 employees will have options to other positions, including positions that currently are filled by another employee. 

 

Round 2 of January 2012 layoffs

Dec. 7

Affected employees receive their at-risk letters.

Dec. 7-9

Online workshops to help at-risk employees complete their profiles and supplemental questions.  (The profile and questions will be used by H.R. to determine bumping options.)

Dec. 16

Final date for at-risk employees to complete their profiles and supplemental questions.

Dec. 29

Employees receive their layoff letters, listing their formal and informal options.

Jan. 3

Deadline for employees to choose their layoff option.

Jan. 9

Employees learn which layoff option they received.

Jan. 16

Employees either report to their new position or are laid off.

 

We have not yet established a timeline or identified all of the positions that will be eliminated in the summer 2012 layoff. We will make those decisions next spring.

 

Communication

Throughout this process, we will work hard to keep you informed.  Please remember that we’ve created a layoff website on InsideESD with answers to common questions, an overview of the layoff process, contact information for the H.R. Layoff Team, access to counseling services, etc. 

 

If you have general questions that are not covered in the “Frequently asked questions” section, please email your question to the Layoff Team.  If you have specific questions about how your position is affected by the layoff, either your supervisor or the Layoff Team should be able to help.

 

I also will continue to visit ESD and WorkSource offices throughout the state to hear what you’re thinking and to answer your questions. 

 

Thank you!

Thank you for your patience and help through this process.  You do amazing work, even during extremely unsettled times, and you make a difference for individuals, families and your community.  The citizens of this state owe you more than they can ever repay – nevertheless, I offer my deepest thanks.

 

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