Politics & Government

Ga. Department of Corrections may furlough employees, including prison guards

It hasn't been implemented, but the Georgia Department of Corrections has a plan to furlough employees for the last four months of the fiscal year, a spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.

The plan would affect all department employees, including prison guards. However, guards and other "mission critical" employees would face two unpaid furlough days, as opposed to the four proposed for other employees, department spokesman Kristen Stancil said in an e-mail to The Telegraph.

The furlough days would potentially be taken in March, April, May and June to help the department meet its fiscal 2009 budget, she said.

"At this point no decision has been made," Stancil said, passing along information from the DOC's personnel division. "Agency management is keeping a close eye on the agency budget and will decide to furlough employees if the budget situation requires it."

No furloughs are planned after fiscal 2010 starts July 1, Stancil said.

Some state agencies, including the Department of Family and Children Services, are already having employees take at least one unpaid day a month to deal with the decline in state revenues. That decline, brought on by the faltering economy, led Gov. Sonny Perdue to cut $2.2 billion — roughly 10 percent — from the state budget this year.

The cuts could get even deeper, because revenues have continued to decline since Perdue's cuts were announced and legislators are looking for additional money to fund a tax break for homeowners.

Several legislators, including those in top leadership positions, have said more state employees are likely to be furloughed. But corrections officers seemed safer than other employees, at least based on comments from state Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, the No. 2 man in the Senate.

Earlier this month Williams advocated more furloughs, but also said "obviously you can't furlough correctional officers, we can't furlough law enforcement."

Those comments came before the most recent state revenue figures were released, showing a jaw-dropping $262 million less in state tax collections in January 2009 compared to January 2008.

What other new furloughs may be planned across other state agencies was not known Wednesday. The Telegraph learned of the Department of Corrections' plan when an employee at a Middle Georgia prison called to say employees there had been told to expect furloughs soon.

Stancil said the department "would not implement a plan that would jeopardize security at any of our facilities."

"Our mission remains the same — we will protect and serve the citizens of Georgia, by effectively managing offenders," she said in her e-mail to The Telegraph.

To contact writer call Travis Fain at 361-2702.