HARRISBURG -- The auditor general's office has informed 67 employees they will lose their jobs in June due to a multimillion-dollar funding shortage.
Barry Ciccocioppo, spokesman for Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, said the office will be forced to restructure its operations due to the loss of employees. He said the layoffs will impact their ability to do work but said they are going to try to be as efficient as possible while maintaining the quality of the information in the auditing reports.
"It's true the furloughs do have an impact and this was our very last resort," he said. "We are now working within the budget parameters we were given."
Funding cuts over the last several years already forced the auditor general's office to conduct fewer audits, from 5,000 in 2008 to 4,000 in 2012, he said, and he expects that number to keep falling.
Those employees laid off by the auditor general's office were invited by email to a meeting Monday, when they were informed in person about the layoffs and were offered assistance in applying for unemployment benefits, updating their resumes, and finding job openings.
"These are not decisions that were made lightly, and we are working with employees now to help them find new employment," Mr. Ciccocioppo said.
The layoffs occurred statewide. Fourteen of those worked in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.
The laid-off employees will work until June 14 and will receive administrative pay and benefits until June 28.
The agency's budget has been reduced by 22 percent since the economic downturn in 2008, from $54 million in 2007-08 to $42.4 million this year.
"We're facing a multimillion-dollar budget hole based on the governor's proposal," Mr. Ciccocioppo said. "Even if we get the level of funding the governor proposed, we're still several million dollars in the hole."
In order to avoid additional layoffs, Mr. Ciccocioppo said, the auditor general's office cut its fleet of vehicles by 60, eliminated a deputy auditor general position and made other budget reductions.
However, after conducting budget projections for the next three years, the auditor general's office doesn't expect any additional layoffs will be necessary.
"It should not require additional furloughs based on current budget projections," Mr. Ciccocioppo said.
State government observers said layoffs at the agency will make it more difficult to hold the government accountable for its spending.
"The auditor general's office is the last place you want to furlough employees," said Eric Epstein, coordinator of Rock the Capital, a Pennsylvania voter education organization. "State government needs aggressive and independent oversight."
Forty-three of the employees were members the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 13. David Fillman, executive director of Council 13, said the organization will be working with the auditor general's office to try to avoid the layoffs.
Josh Fatzick is an intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association.