VACostCutting

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Open Thread: Cost Cutting Ideas and Suggestions

Based on a comment left at Commonwealth Conservative asking how to communicate with the Cost Cutting Caucus, here's an open thread for readers to submit cost cutting ideas or suggestions for places to investigate to uncover potential state budget savings.

Surely there are state government employees, vendors, or citizen observers who have seen or experienced areas where streamlining operations/programs, doing things differently, or eliminating waste could save the taxpayers money and improve services. Let the caucus hear from you.

23 Comments:

  • I'll start.

    Every agency that leases private space should conduct as assessment on how many employees could work from home. Calculate how much space that would free up. Determine if the new space required number fits into any vacant state-owned space, or determine if the existing lease could be renegotiated with less square footage.

    Take action as appropriate to save money on leased space.

    By Blogger Will Vehrs, at 2/09/2006 10:27 AM  

  • I'll second that vote, Mr. Vehrs. I would like to see a policy that agencies have to give employees that request to work from home a valid reason why they can't instead of just saying no. I think in a lot of cases management just can't bring themselves to trust grown employees to do their work. Or maybe they don't want to have to quantify the work of the employees... I don't know.

    Our agency has a standing policy that you can't work from home unless there is some really extreme reason. And even then, you can't be paid for a 40 hour week. I've only seen it approved once in 20+ years.

    Even though some agencies are in large state buildings, we could get quite a few employees out of surrounding private offices. There's no reason to heat, clean, cool and run elctricity for so many empty cubicles. We can reduce traffic, reduce the number of employees requiring daily parking in the decks, save gas, lunch money, parking fees, etc.

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/09/2006 12:23 PM  

  • Are there any agencies still paying for plant services like Great Big Greenhouse that comes to water your plants? Employees can buy and water their own plants...

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/09/2006 12:41 PM  

  • I see in the Health and Human Resources budget that there is a $150,000 item for SeniorNavigator.com. It mentions that our portion is 1/4 of the total budget. I assume the other 3/4 is funded by the hospitals and health businesses listed on their home page as sponsors.

    My questions are:

    What do the funds pay for? Is it just the maintenance of the site or does that amount also pay for the human services mentioned on the site?

    Why do we need to fund this portal when the Department for the Aging has a pretty comprehensive site?

    Are there any stats on how many seniors are actually using the site?

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/09/2006 8:33 PM  

  • Well while we're on the topic of office space - I've noticed that too many of the buildings that are leased are insulated terribly and have an overabundance of large windows, making heating and cooling costs unimaginable.

    Also, maybe the state should consider cutting more universities loose tied to a decrease in state funding.

    Have someone oversee the distribution of funds within Virginia to make sure no one area is getting an inordinate amount.

    Vote out all our pork-addicted delegates.

    By Anonymous Anton Traversa, at 2/10/2006 12:41 PM  

  • I do not know the answer, but are there things that could be done to save money in the area of healthcare? I know healthcare costs have risen for private companies and I assume the same is true for the commonwealth. I do not know what options, if any, would be available that would not be available to a private company.

    Also, this was mentioned at the AFP meeting in Richmond. Adding the option to VRS of a 401k style retirement option. In the long run I know VRS has problems and the taxpayers will have to foot the bill. Is that something that is in the works and how much money would it save us? Virginia will end up like GM or other big employers that have outrageous retirement obligations if we are not careful.

    Out of curiousity, how many employees does the state have? One last question, who are the members of the cost cutting caucus? I do not think I have seen a list.

    Thanks!

    By Blogger nickfinity, at 2/11/2006 8:02 AM  

  • Oh Lord! Please don't take our retirement away. With the lower wages and high co-pays on our health insurance, it's about all we have left.

    I don't mind if there is a cheaper way to administer the plans, just please don't take them away!!!

    I will say, it's amazing to me that with over 100,000 employees the state can't seem to negotiate as good a deal as Walmart or McDonald's. I don't know how many other state employees have had cancer, back surgery or anything that required lab tests but you can go bankrupt on our plan.

    There's a spreadsheet on State employment levels at JLARC site.

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/11/2006 10:35 AM  

  • nickfinity,

    Here is another good report from JLARC. Looks like many baby-boomer state employees will be eligible to retire in the next 10 years but won't actually be able to retire due to rising health care costs.

    Wow, less than 25% of eligible employees actually retire. 71% report that they can't retire due to health care costs. I'm certainly one of those. I would be eligible in 15 years (at 55 with 35 years of service) but I won't be able to afford to retire until at least 67-70 (with 47-50 years of service). In other words, I'll most likely never draw a penny from VRS :(

    This report also provides an answer to my question about why we don't get as good a rate as other large employers... They pushed additional expenses to the employees to cover the natural climbing expenses of our older force who can't afford to retire... Pretty much the same thing that the federal government is doing to verterans' benefits. Never ending circle going on here.

    I guess that's an effective way to keep VRS expenses down....

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/11/2006 11:19 PM  

  • Lucy - Thanks for the links. I wasn't suggesting taking away retirement benefits. I'm only suggesting giving the option of a 401k style retirement. Many people prefer it. A friend of mine who works at a state university in Ohio switched his retirement to that type when the option became available. That way if he switches jobs he takes his money with him. When he passes away his survivors get the money. He is in more control.

    And when he retires the state does not continue to pay him. The costs for the state are much more predictable. Old style pension plans are being replaced all the time in the private sector. Otherwise they could go bankrupt. Look at GM, they are essentially a pension fund company that happens to make cars. And if they don't get their costs under control they could very easily file for bankruptcy.

    Adding an option to the retirement plans would not harm anyone and could save the taxpayers a lot of money in the future.

    By Blogger nickfinity, at 2/12/2006 9:16 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/12/2006 8:05 PM  

  • Oops. Had the wrong amount. (wishful thinking again!)

    You are probably right. I don't know much about investing but I imagine something workable could be found. We do have a defined contribution plan. The state matches our investment up to $20.00. Is that what you refer to?

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/12/2006 8:09 PM  

  • Thanks again Lucy. Is that plan available to everyone, do you know? I could very easily have been mistaken.

    By Blogger nickfinity, at 2/13/2006 10:30 AM  

  • Available to salaried employees.

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/14/2006 11:50 AM  

  • Administrative budget, Department of Veterans Services:

    1) Increase staff and funding for equipment at Amelia and Suffolk cemeteries ►
    Provides funding for increased staffing and equipment to improve the physical appearance of the Amelia and Suffolk
    cemeteries, enable marketing strategies to be implemented, and offer support to veterans' families. The Suffolk area
    cemetery has seen an increase in burials beyond the projected amount by 300. Amelia needs increased maintenance due
    to its age. For 2007, $133,643 (GF), $82,884 (NGF), and five positions. For 2008, $169,072 (GF), $82,884 (NGF), and two
    additional positions.


    2) Objective:
    Plant a minimum of 12 flowering plants, trees, and bushes at each cemetery each year from FY07 through FY11


    Do state employees maintain the verterans' cemeteries? If they do, would it be cheaper to outsource maintenance and beautification instead of hiring on permanent, full time employees with benefits?

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/18/2006 1:37 PM  

  • Independent Agencies Budget:

    Provide for workload increases in the administration of benefits and retirement programs ►
    Provides additional support to provide the customer service levels required by the ever increasing number of retirement
    applications resulting from the aging of the state and local government workforce. This additional support includes an
    increase in direct customer service contact personnel and improvements in the information technology used to serve
    Virginia Retirement System customers. For 2007, $1.6 million (NGF) and 11 positions. For 2008, $1.6 million (NGF).


    If JLARC (report linked in a prior post) determined that there will NOT be a significant increase in retirement of state employees, why the $1.6 million increase for providing services?

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/18/2006 1:54 PM  

  • Agriculture Budget:

    Milk Marketing Regulation
    This service area creates and administers regulations that foster an orderly state milk-marketing environment to provide for a constantly available supply of milk production dedicated to fluid milk product for use by citizens in controlled markets. $755,801


    Is there a problem with milk production? Why is this necessary?

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/18/2006 8:14 PM  

  • Commerce and Trade Budget:

    Provide funding to expand rural access to broadband technology ►
    Provides additional funding to expand rural access to broadband technology. Of the funding provided, $3.0 million in the first year will be used to fund the costs for engineering and permitting related to expansion of a broadband network to the Eastern Shore and other rural Tidewater areas in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula; $500,000 in each year will be used to fund feasibility studies of best last-mile solutions for other rural areas; and $200,000 in the first year will be used to support the extension of broadband infrastructure from the Crossroads Institute in the City of Galax to business and customer locations in Carroll and Grayson Counties, the City of Galax, and the Town of Independence.
    For 2007, $3.7 million (GF). For 2008, $500,000 (GF).


    Why does the state do these studies? Why not private companies like Verizon and Comcast?

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/18/2006 8:35 PM  

  • Commerce and Trade:

    Provide additional funding for the Appomattox River Dredging Project ►
    Provides additional funding for the City of Petersburg for the Appomattox River Dredging Project. For 2007, $200,000
    (GF).


    Do the businesses and land owners on the waterways provide money to help pay for dredging? I remember when I was a child, our community in Yorktown had to come up with a pretty hefty amount to have our canals dredged.

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/18/2006 8:38 PM  

  • Commerce and Trade: Mines, Minerals and Energy:

    Enhance assistance to agencies to execute additional energy savings contracts ►
    Funds a position to help agencies identify potential energy savings projects and assist agencies in executing energy savings contracts in order to fund these projects. Currently, agencies are hesitant to enter into energy savings contracts because they lack the expertise to execute them. This position will provide the expertise necessary to execute the
    contracts and will result in additional energy savings for the Commonwealth.
    For 2007, $116,400 (GF) and one position.
    For 2008, $116,400 (GF).


    What kind of energy saving projects are these? Are we saving as much or more than we're paying in ($116,400/yr.?)

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/18/2006 9:20 PM  

  • Commerce and Trade:

    Provide additional funding to develop business development international markets ►
    Provides additional funding for the Partnership to work with local and regional economic development offices, other
    state agencies, universities, and private sector partners to establish a physical presence in both China and India. Of the
    funding provided, $100,000 will be used for research to identify business sectors and individual companies in those
    sectors that are ready to consider expanding operations outside their own countries. The other $100,000 will be used for marketing activities, such as direct contact trips, seminars, events, and print materials to communicate Virginia’s many business-ready assets. For 2007, $200,000 (GF).


    How much commerce FROM China/India TO Virginia has this program achieved in the past? Why are we outsourcing services to these countries and then using a great deal of funds to advertise to increase trade back?

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/18/2006 9:22 PM  

  • Commerce and Trade:

    provides funds to breeders and owners of Virginia-bred horses. $2,100,000

    Why does the state provide funds to breeders and owners of Virginia-bred horses? Do these breeders not make money selling their stock? If the state is supporting horses why not dogs, cats, birds, etc.?

    How much increased revenue does the state get from horse racing?

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/18/2006 9:37 PM  

  • I would like to know why the cafeteria in the Monroe building does not employ Blind or Visually handicapped employees anymore. I see the current employees still wear the badges of that agency but the only four visually handicapped employees (that I know of) were terminated. They were obviously able to work for many years in that capacity. Doesn't it seem reasonable to assume the cafeterias, snack shops, vending stands, etc. run by this department should hire as many visually handicapped employees as possible?

    By Blogger Lucy Jones, at 2/18/2006 9:57 PM  

  • US President Tim Kalemkarian, US Senate Tim Kalemkarian, US House Tim Kalemkarian: best major candidate.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/28/2007 10:57 AM  

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