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On February 18, 2011, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced a plan for reducing Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 expenditures by $40 million, a 1.3 percent decrease in spending for the current fiscal year. This reduction is in addition to the $55 million in biennial savings identified during Fiscal Year 2010.
This action was taken in response to a request all state agencies received from the Governor and the Legislative Budget Board to identify an additional 2.5 percent in possible budget savings during the current fiscal year. For the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a 2.5 percent reduction in FY 2011 would have equaled approximately $62.4 million, excluding appropriations for Correctional Managed Health Care and the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Including reductions impacting those two entities, a 2.5 percent reduction in FY 2011 would equal approximately $75 million.
Most of the FY 2011 savings come from strategies that minimize the impact on staff and operations, to include utilizing unexpended balances and further reducing capital expenditures. However, $3.1 million of cost savings will be achieved by a reduction in force impacting 400 agency positions, exclusive of unit-based staff and parole officer positions. Another $1.5 million of cost savings will be achieved through the elimination of the Project RIO program and the associated positions.
You may have read media reports which speculated that a much larger number of positions would be eliminated. The FY 2011 budget reductions were identified in consultation with the Governor’s Office and members of the Legislature, and during that process, it was necessary to show how additional reductions totaling $62.4 million could be achieved. Ultimately, a consensus developed around the agency’s initial plan, with some modifications, for achieving approximately $40 million in savings during Fiscal Year 2011.
I regret it was necessary for any positions to be eliminated, but do not believe we could credibly argue that an agency of 40,000 employees must be exempt from a reduction in force that is impacting virtually all state agencies. I must also caution all agency employees that the actions taken represent only an immediate response to the FY 2011 budget deficit. The Legislature continues to consider various means of balancing the state’s budget not only during FY 2011, but also for the FY 2012-13 biennium. We cannot assume that no further spending reductions will be required.
I appreciate the difficult situation employees find themselves in today. Your job is hard enough without the uncertainty associated with budget deliberations currently taking place. But that uncertainty is an inherent part of the process and cannot be avoided.
What I can assure you is that public safety, staff safety and the safety of the offender population will remain our highest priorities throughout the appropriations process, and those priorities are shared by the Governor and the Texas Legislature. This agency will continue to provide accurate information regarding the impact of various proposals so that our state’s elected officials can make informed decisions on matters of great importance.
The agency will also continue to keep you informed through the Connections newsletter, the TDCJ website and other means of communication. In the meantime, please consider with some skepticism various rumors that might circulate prior to decisions being reached. To the extent they are based on any factual information, it may be preliminary information not reflecting the final outcome.
Once again, thank you for everything you do for the citizens of Texas.
The printed publication of Connections is being halted due to budget reductions. An electronic version of Connections will continue to appear on the agency’s website.