West Virginia Spends Millions on Unfilled In-State Jobs, Report Says | News, Sports, Jobs
CHARLESTON — A new legislative audit found that West Virginia state departments and agencies were receiving funding for full-time jobs that hadn’t been filled for years, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
The Legislature’s Postal Audit Subcommittee received a report from the Legislature’s Performance Evaluation and Research Division on Sunday on state government vacancies. Sunday was the first day of the September interim legislative meetings.
According to the report, more than $226 million was allocated in the FY2022 executive budget for salaries and benefits for 4,857 vacant positions funded by both state taxes and other sources. of the state and the federal government.
“Each year, several million dollars are allocated to budgeted vacancies, many of which have been vacant for several years with no evidence that agencies are trying to fill them,” said Lukas Griffith, principal analyst for PERD.
More than half of these positions, or 2,289 vacancies, were directly funded by the general revenue budget which receives funds from several tax revenue sources, including personal income tax, sales tax and consumer use and severance taxes on coal and natural gas. State departments and agencies received a total of $101.5 million for these 2,289 vacancies, representing more than 5% of all budgeted positions.
picture by: Photo courtesy of WV Legislative Photography
Auditors found that 291 current state vacancies paid for through General Revenue Fund appropriations remained vacant between 2014 and 2018, but these agencies continue to receive more than $13 million for vacancies that do not are not spent. There are 494 vacancies for 2014-18 for the entire executive budget, costing taxpayers $22.9 million.
“When you consider that many of these vacancies for 2019 to 2021 will ultimately remain vacant for years, the overall budget implications for the state general fund (revenue) and budgeted vacancies are well over $13.4 million. dollars,” Griffith said.
Most vacancies are between 2019 and 2021, with 4,363 budgeted vacancies accounting for 90% of total budgeted vacancies at a cost of $204 million. The report also found that in most cases, state departments and agencies were not transferring these unspent funds.
“Wow,” said House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay. “In four years of serving on this committee, this has to be one of the most informative reports I have ever received.
The agencies with the most vacancies are the Department of Health and Human Resources’ Health Division and the Corrections and Rehabilitation Division, which each have over 800 vacancies. Both agencies are known to have high turnover and a high number of vacancies, with Governor Jim Justice declaring a state of emergency last month for jails and state prisons, using the Guard West Virginia National to help with staffing.
“We are all well aware of the issues we have with nursing homes, prisons and jails, and social work,” said delegate Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh. “We are literally sending the National Guard into the prisons right now. We could immediately shift that money to those high-demand, high-need positions if we could dig into that and potentially with the other 4,300 vacancies, do the same.
Auditors also found more than 300 full-time jobs with state agencies that would qualify for salary-based government assistance. There are 383 full-time state employee positions earning less than $23,000, which qualifies them for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Many of those 383 jobs are in the Health Division, including housekeepers, cooks and other service workers.
But Michael Cook, director of the State Budget Office, wanted lawmakers to oppose an immediate sweep of department and agency budgets
“There are instances where I think there are vacancies that could be eliminated and the money would be better spent supporting the agency budget, but in many instances the budget bill provides permissive language that allows these agencies to transfer funds that the legislature has appropriated for personal services and benefits,” Cook said. “That was one of the main concerns I had when I read the report . I didn’t want it to sound like there were only millions of millions of dollars that could be swept away in savings.
But as the auditors pointed out, there are very few instances of state departments and agencies making intra-departmental transfers of personal services. The Division of Health did not make any intra-departmental transfers in 2020 and 2021 and the Division of Human Services, Division of Highways, Division of Rehabilitation Services and West Virginia State Universities did not. made no transfers between 2018 and 2021.
“Technically they say they need it for vacancies, but really no, they need it for overtime,” said PERD director John Sylvia. “That’s what we’ve seen these agencies do.”
“I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, Mr. Sylvia, but in other words, you are telling us that the budget process as we know it simply does not reflect reality. Hanshaw asked.
“No, it’s not,” Sylvia said.