On June 17, the office's human resources director sent a memo to the office's 350 employees, informing them that staff reductions would need to be made. Ninety percent of the budget is consigned to employee salaries and benefits, so reducing the payroll is something that couldn't be avoided, the memo explains.
"We are therefore asking your help so that we can plan intelligently for the next biennium," the memo says. Five questions follow, inquiring if eligible employees are interested in retiring before Jan. 1, 2004, taking a sabbatical or unpaid leave of absence, or reducing their hours.
The questions are intended to help the office avoid layoffs and are "strictly voluntary," says Tim Murtaugh, the AG office's director of communications. Answering the questions will not affect anyone's future employment and, Murtaugh says, "there's no timeline" for making cuts.
Several people are already eligible for retirement, he says, and the office is optimistic that no one will have to be fired. All the functions of the AG's office will remain intact, he emphasizes. "The citizens of Virginia will be well served by what the Office of the Attorney General does," Murtaugh says. "Nothing will be reduced."
In Kilgore's office, "austerity measures" are already in place, Murtaugh says, including a partial hiring freeze and restrictions on overtime. They also include "efforts to trim costs in just routine business things," he says which means everything from reducing lawyers' travel budgets to using expensive letterhead stationery sparingly. Kilgore himself has offered to make a detailed accounting of his expenditures (from a $9,000 discretionary account) available to the public, Murtaugh says.
The office, like every other agency, is not immune to tough economic times, he says. "We just don't know what the landscape holds. We recognize that the state's in a belt-tightening mode all across. And certainly we're part of it."
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