OLYMPIA—Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) managers this week are advising more than 100 employees their jobs may be eliminated to meet an expected multi-million-dollar budget shortfall.
A total of about 170 positions are affected, although some are currently vacant. The cuts will affect field staff— including hatchery personnel, enforcement officers, biologists and outdoor educators—as well as business operations such as financial management and computer support. The job cuts are spread statewide, throughout department programs and all levels of the agency.
The lay-offs will begin in April and be concluded by end of June, when the current fiscal year ends, said WDFW Deputy Director Joe Stohr. The workers that will first be affected are being advised now, in response to requests from employees for early information, he said.
The lay-off plans are based on an anticipated funding cut of more than $30 million from WDFW’s $348 million, two-year operating budget. Gov. Chris Gregoire called for reducing WDFW’s budget by $30 million in her proposed 2009-11 state budget, and directed the department to reduce spending by more than $5 million in the current fiscal year. The department’s final spending plan will be determined when the Legislature passes a new two-year state budget.
Staff cuts are being considered as a last resort, after department managers pursued efforts to trim other spending, increase recreational license sales and restructure agency operations, said WDFW Interim Director Phil Anderson. With personnel expenses consuming about 80 percent of the department’s budget, other measures are inadequate to address the shortfall, he said.
“We made every effort to reduce impacts to public service and to our employees, but there’s just no way to absorb a funding cut this large without a lot of pain,” said WDFW Interim Director Phil Anderson.
In planning the staff cuts, department managers attempted to preserve core services, which include conserving natural resources, providing sustainable fishing, wildlife viewing and hunting opportunities, and maintaining professional business practices, Anderson said.