Last week, the state announced a 5 percent decrease in the Georgia State patrol budget; however, drivers are being assured that Georgia’s highways and interstate system will still be safe.
“We will still have coverage, we will still have a presence of troopers,” said Paul Cosper, Public Information Officer for the Georgia State Patrol.
Another 5 percent budget cut for the state patrol was announced last week; this comes after a 14 percent budget cut earlier this year. According to Cosper the state patrol budget has gone from $118 million to $95 million, resulting in lower salary and furlough days for the majority of state patrol employees, including administration and office staff.
State troopers had earned about $35,000 before budget cuts when troopers across the state had a 10 percent reduction in pay. Cosper said 82 percent of the budget goes toward personnel services, meaning salaries.
“Like everyone else in the state we are feeling the pinch of a tighter budget,” said Cosper.
Last month, Gov. Sonny Perdue announced a reduction in annual work schedule days for teachers, resulting in three fewer days of work and pay for Georgia’s teachers. The state patrol will also be taking three days, two in August and one in September.
“There will be a rotation on who takes their days when, there will be no lapse in service,” said Cosper.
Scheduling, according to Cosper, will fall to local state patrol post sergeants.
“Sergeants will be looking at which areas needed more state patrol presence,” he said. “Obviously the metro Atlanta area would need a higher volume of troopers. Whereas [Gordon County] might not be as busy.”
According to Sgt. Shawn Tucker, commander of state patrol post 47 in Calhoun, the state patrol in Gordon County will continue to maintain a heavy presence during peak travel hours.
“We are looking at the commute schedule, when people are driving to and from work,” Tucker said. “That is when the most crashes occur.”
Tucker said that they are studying traffic patterns and looking to furlough troopers during the travel periods that would be least inconvenient to drivers.
There will still be troopers stationed throughout I-75 in Gordon County, according to Cosper, and there will be no burden placed on the Gordon County sheriff’s department to patrol I-75.
“There will be troopers out there. The interstate is the state patrol’s responsibility,” Cosper said.
Cosper also said that all scheduling would now need to be handled “creatively.”
“It is up to the local sergeant to determine all scheduling,” he said.
After the third furlough day in September the department will re-evaluate the budget.
“Hopefully things will pick up and there will be a bump in revenue,” Cosper said.
The Georgia State Patrol receives no money from tickets issued on the interstate, said Copser. All ticket revenue remains within the county. Georgia State Patrol is funded through the state using tax revenue.
“This is no one’s fault,” he said. “This is just a sign of the economy and we are all hoping it will get better.”
Tucker said that Post 47 is also tracking daily hours to prevent overtime and modifying schedules to prevent overtime. Tucker also said that Post 47 has been fortunate enough not to have to lay off any troopers.
“Everyone is still here,” he said.
Article by Lydia Senn, Calhoun Times
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