Nearly 1,000 eligible for proposed buyouts at cash-strapped GPO

Nearly 1,000 employees of the Government Printing Office will be eligible for buyouts proposed in response to projected funding cutbacks as the agency attempts to avoid overrunning its budget.

“If we didn’t do this, most likely we’d be in deficit spending at some point next year,” William Boarman, Public Printer of the United States, told The Hill.

On Tuesday, the agency announced it plans to offer lump-sum buyout payments of up to $25,000 to employees in an effort to reduce its workforce by 15 percent, or 330 positions.

Of the 2,200 current GPO employees, 600 are eligible to retire and roughly 350 are eligible for an early out, Boarman said.

Though the funding will come out of the GPO’s budget, the buyouts have been judged more economical than potential layoffs in the long term.

“It’s probably cheaper than doing a [layoff], because they would get severance pay and it’s just so disruptive,” he said. The proposed buyout plan is “humane, it’s smart, it’s economical. This is the way to do it.”

Though the GPO must await Congressional approval before implementing buyouts, the agency will likely begin seeing savings in fiscal 2012.

When asked if cutting 330 positions would still allow the GPO to meet demands, Boarman was optimistic.

“I think we will,” he said. “If we can get 15 percent to take it; and we think we probably will, we may get more than that. But I don’t know that we can go any lower than that and get the work out.”

Boarman was less optimistic, however, about institutional changes required within Congress to ease the burden on the cash-strapped GPO.

Many offices send documents required for Congressional and Federal publications late into the night and on weekends, requiring shifts to rack up unexpected overtime.

“If they throw two inches of copy in here at 1:30 in the morning, then we’re going to respond and we’re going to get it done,” Boarman said. “Now, if they reorganized and they didn’t do that anymore, we wouldn’t have to hire overtime. We could save a lot of money, we could get stuff faster and cheaper and cut all kinds of corners if they changed the way they do business.”

Boarman has seen this matter discussed throughout his more than 35 years working for or around the GPO, with little change.

“I’ve told them many times, if you want to cut costs, you have to change the way you operate,” he said. “And it never happens. I don’t have any expectation that they’re going to change the way they do [business].”

Also of issue for the agency are projected cuts to its FY 2012 budget, which now stands at more than $148 million, $5.2 million less than the year prior.

“This is the first year I’ve seen where they just ignored not only us, but the [Library of Congress], the [Government Accountability Office], everybody, and just said, ‘It doesn’t matter what you need, this is all you’re going to get,’ ” Boarman said.

In addition to buyouts, the GPO is also looking to save money by consolidating its facilities from four buildings into two within the next two years. Those spare buildings can then be leased to other government agencies, including the Architect of the Capitol.

Overtime has also been largely scaled back, office renovations have been halted and travel expenses have been significantly slashed as well, said Boarman

“We’re going to have to think outside the box; we’re going to have to do a lot of things that would be considered unorthodox,” he said. “But it’s the way things are. You just have to make do with what you’ve got because you know you’re not going to get any more.”