Friday, June 26, 2009

Survival of State Geological Surveys

The annual meeting of the state geologists (AASG) wrapped up Wednesday night and it’s clear that state geological surveys across the nation are generally hurting from the economic mess.

A few of our colleagues are not only surviving but thriving. Ed Deal from Montana described the new building on the Montana Tech campus in Butte that they will move into by January. Their state legislature has also appropriated around $5 million for the Survey to work on groundwater problems.

In Arkansas, State Geologist Bekki White is hiring more staff to run the state’s expanded seismic network and work on earthquake hazards.

But these are anomalies. Just a week ago the Ohio Survey was told to prepare for a 30% budget cut in the fiscal year starting next week, and to be zeroed out completely a year later. The staff is still coming to terms with this bombshell and considering options for institutional survival.

Surveys in other states are dealing with a range of budget reduction strategies – hiring freezes, loss of positions, layoffs, furloughs, cuts in operations, closures of facilities, and salary reductions. We spent part of an afternoon discussing ways to deal with these cuts as well as strategies and techniques for making sure Legislator and administrators understand the impacts of cuts and make informed decisions.

Here in Arizona, AZGS has taken about 20% reductions in state appropriations in the current fiscal year and the Legislature's budget takes another 10% on top of that for the new year starting July 1. So far, we closed our Phoenix store and not filled vacant positions, but we've been able to avoid other layoffs or furloughs. What the new year will bring is uncertain.

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