Cuts force agency to furlough employees, close sites

Tuesday, May 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Budget cuts are forcing the Oklahoma Historical Society to furlough its employees and close the state 33 museums and historic sites for four days, officials said Monday.

``We were looking at $235,000 (in cuts) just last week,'' said Bob Blackburn, the agency's executive director. ``We were considering up to 10 days of furloughs to find savings.

``We whittled it down to $85,000. It got to the point that there was nothing else to delay, cancel or move to another funding source.''

The Oklahoma Historical Society operates on a budget of $7.2 million, Blackburn said. It spends $21,000 on payroll every day, he said.

The historical society, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission are all using the unpaid days off to cope with budget cuts.

The Office of Juvenile Affairs tabled a decision on furloughs, making deeper program cuts and opting to use money from a revolving fund, said OJA spokeswoman Rhonda Burgess.

The society's employees will be furloughed May 28 and May 29 and for two undetermined days in June, Blackburn said.

The museums and other historic sites will be closed for four days through June 30, Blackburn said. The dates will be determined by conditions at each site.

The Office of State Finance announced last week that state agencies' budget allocations for May would be reduced more than 16 percent because of lower-than-expected tax collections.

The Oklahoma Historical Society had been hit with about $239,000 in cuts earlier this fiscal year because state revenue collections were lower than expected.

The cut for this month amounted to about $185,000 for the historical society.

Among the 33 sites are the Chouteau Memorial, Salina; the Oklahoma Museum of Higher Education, Old Central, Stillwater; the Fort Gibson Historic Site; the Frank Phillips House, Bartlesville; the Jim Thorpe House, Yale; Sequoyah's Cabin, Sallisaw; the Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center and the Tom Mix Museum, Dewey.