OKLAHOMA CITY - In an attempt to save money, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety is asking its employees to help cut costs.
DPS employees received a letter from Commissioner Michael C. Thompson Wednesday, offering voluntary out benefits offers (VOBO) to all interested and qualifying employees.
"The budget is pretty challenging for us to be having this discussion," Thompson told NewsChannel 4 in an interview. "We've done everything we can here to reduce costs. Unfortunately VOBOs is something we've been looking at for a number of months. It's just an option we're going to have to use to get through the year."
DPS staff has been discussing VOBOs for several months, Thompson said, adding a few employees attended a workshop on the cost-saving measure.
The buyout would include a one time payment equivalent to 18 months of the employee's insurance premium, a longevity payment and a payment for all accrued and unused annual leave.
Thompson would not specify a monetary goal or a target of employees, instead saying he hopes DPS can make nine months of payroll savings.
For employees to qualify for the VOBO, they would have to have at least one year of service with DPS by July 1. Not all who apply will be chosen.
"We'll look at what they do here for the State of Oklahoma," he said. "We'll look at the potential savings they may offer the agency. And we'll look at whether or not we feel we can pick up that work load and move forward without that employee."
It's important to make the decision in the next few months, Thompson said, in order to maximize savings. If the buyouts are finalized by October, the department can reap more of the benefits next fiscal year.
DPS has already taken steps to slash its budget. It's left 19 vacant positions unfilled, implemented a hiring freeze, suspended the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Academy scheduled for early 2017 and efforts in the reduction of operational costs and energy expenditures.
"At the end of the day, DPS isn't unique," said Thompson. "There are a number of agencies in the exact same boat we are. So whatever we are appropriated, we'll take that money and do the best we can. What I'd like to do is balance the needs of that individual employee and the needs of the agency and we'll move forward with who we think we can grant a request for."