Re­port high­lights pos­si­ble tax­payer sav­ings by clos­ing empty state of­fices

The Boyertown Area Times - - COMMUNITY - Of­fice of State Se­na­tor David G. Ar­gall

A re­port re­quested by Sen­a­tors David G. Ar­gall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) and Randy Vu­lakovich (R-Al­legheny) high­lights flaws in the state’s man­age­ment of state-owned and leased of­fice space and out­lines ways the state could stream­line its real es­tate port­fo­lio and save mil­lions of tax dol­lars.

The is­sue was a hot-but­ton topic at a Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee hear­ing on the state bud­get ear­lier this year.

Ar­gall and Vu­lakovich have been re­quest­ing an­swers from the De­part­ment of General Ser­vices to un­der­stand the scope of the prob­lem of un­used of­fice space across the state af­ter see­ing empty floors of state-owned of­fice space in Har­ris­burg, Phil­a­del­phia and Pitts­burgh. That led the sen­a­tors to spon­sor a mea­sure re­quir­ing the Joint State Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion to re­view state-owned and leased of­fice space used and un­used by state em­ploy­ees and sug­gest re­forms.

“The num­ber of state em­ploy­ees has de­clined by 26 per­cent since 1980, but we are not see­ing the same re­duc­tions when it comes to of­fice space owned and leased by the state,” Ar­gall said. “This re­port gives us a blue­print to pur­sue re­forms that have been proven in both the pri­vate sec­tor and in other states as a way to save tax dol­lars. It is a gi­gan­tic waste of tax dol­lars when we have empty floors in sta­te­owned of­fice build­ings, yet the state is pay­ing to lease prop­er­ties right across the street.”

“Sev­eral years ago I started tak­ing note of un­used of­fices in Har­ris­burg as well as in Al­legheny County,” said Se­na­tor Vu­lakovich. “Then in our State Bud­get hear­ings this is­sue came up again, so Se­na­tor Ar­gall and I de­cided we needed to do an in­de­pen­dent study of what space we have and how we are us­ing that space. I look for­ward to work­ing with Se­na­tor Ar­gall and the De­part­ment of General Ser­vices to im­ple­ment some changes out­lined in this re­port to help in our com­mon goal of sav­ing tax payer dol­lars.”

The re­port looked at sev­eral re­forms made in states, in­clud­ing New Mex­ico, Kansas, Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton to change the way states pro­cure and main­tain real es­tate. Penn­syl­va­nia re­duced its over­all leased of­fice space us­age over the last four years, re­sult­ing in $10 mil­lion in an­nual sav­ings. How­ever, Ar­gall and Vu­lakovich be­lieve the state could save mil­lions more each year.

The re­port sug­gests that the state should re­vamp out­dated poli­cies and pro­ce­dures for of­fice space uti­liza­tion, es­tab­lish bet­ter sys­tems to mon­i­tor us­age of of­fice space within each state agency, im­prove ex­ist­ing state-owned fa­cil­i­ties and al­low state agen­cies to work to­gether to share space, in­clud­ing con­fer­ence and meet­ing rooms.

The sen­a­tors will in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion re­quir­ing all state ex­ec­u­tive and in­de­pen­dent agen­cies to re­port their space us­age to the De­part­ment of General Ser­vices. The de­part­ment will then be re­quired to pro­vide the com­plete doc­u­men­ta­tion to the state Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives each year on the num­ber of empty state of­fices and its ac­tions to re­duce the amount of real es­tate uti­lized by all state agen­cies.

“We need to get a han­dle on the prob­lem and this forth­com­ing leg­is­la­tion is key to solv­ing this prob­lem and putting a halt to wasted tax­payer re­sources,” Vu­lakovich said.

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