Cuts in Olympia are about to reach Tacoma.
The state Employment Security Department will close its unemployment insurance tax office in Tacoma on March 21, according to Sheryl Hutchison, the agency’s communications director.
The office at 1301 Tacoma Ave. S. serves employers, who will be able to contact an ESD call center after the Tacoma closure, Hutchison said Tuesday.
“It will save us quite a bit. We’ll go to a centralized phone system, with a toll-free call center for businesses,” she said.
Total annual savings from closing the tax offices will be about $750,000, according to Hutchison.
Other ESD tax offices statewide will close as leases expire, she said.
Along with the office closures, the agency also has announced staff reductions.
“We’re getting ready to do another round,” Hutchison said. “We knew more budget cuts were coming. Our budgets continue to shrink. It’s part of our ongoing downsizing. We grew quite a bit during the recession. We’re getting down to what we hope is a sustainable level.
“We’ve known these funding cuts were coming for some time.”
The agency – which added staff to handle unemployment insurance claims during the worst of the recession and has since been reducing employment rolls – now must eliminate another 300 to 400 jobs.
The agency has been holding open positions vacant, so the latest round of job cuts will result in the layoff of only 260 people, Hutchison said.
Although the state cuts coincide with automatic budget cuts under federal sequestration, Hutchison said they are not related.
Instead, they are the result of efforts to reduce ESD budgets by 16 percent in the current biennium and 16 percent again in the next one – with some of the reductions spurred by the agency running out of one-time federal allocations that were used to pay for administrative costs and a pending computer-system upgrade.
Employment Security officials are in the midst of deciding which functions and positions will be affected by the cuts. The agency expects to send out the first round of layoff notices in the next two or three weeks. Layoffs will take effect in May.
The agency has had three rounds of cuts in the past year and a half – shrinking worker headcounts from about 2,700 to about 2,000 today. Once the next round is completed, Hutchison estimated the agency will employ about 1,600-1,700 workers.