WASHINGTON - The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. aims to cut operating expenses 16% to $1.15 billion in 1996, according to the budget approved Tuesday by the FDIC board.

The budget also calls for the agency's staff to shrink 22%, to 7,713, by the end of next year.

However, the agency's budget and staffing are not that simple. It is slated to take on more than 2,000 staffers and $691 million from the Resolution Trust Corp., which closes its doors at the end of this month.

With the RTC included, the FDIC's overall budget will be $1.84 billion in 1996 and its staff will hit 9,733 by yearend. That's still well below FDIC-only numbers as recently as 1993, showing how much the agency has shrunk in recent years.

Despite the cuts, however, banks won't see a substantial reduction in the amount of money the FDIC charges the Bank Insurance Fund for operating expenses, and the Savings Association Insurance Fund will be hit with a big increase.

As the FDIC cleans up its backlog of failed banks, receiverships bring in less so the agency must charge a greater share of its operating expenses to the insurance funds.

"It's an indication they aren't cutting overhead expenses as fast as overall work load," said Alexandria, Va., banking consultant Bert Ely, who attended the board meeting. "They're not whacking enough."

Also, now that the FDIC is responsible for thrift failures, it must start subtracting expenses from the savings fund.

FDIC executives said they're cutting as fast as they can, and that - barring a new rash of bank failures - they expect to beat their spending and staff targets for 1996.

FDIC Chairman Ricki Helfer said the agency is aims to cut down to a "core staff" of 7,200 within two years. "If the health of the industry continues, it most likely would be a lower number," she added.

Of the $1.84 billion budgeted for 1996, 37.5% is slated to pay for RTC liquidations of failed thrifts, 33.1% to FDIC liquidations of failed banks, 24.3% to FDIC supervision of state-chartered banks, and 5.1% to other tasks.

The anticipated sources of that money are 37.5% from RTC receiverships, 29.8% from FDIC receiverships, 22.3% from the Bank Insurance Fund, 6.3% from the Savings Association Insurance Fund, and 4.3% from the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. Resolution Fund.

That adds up to $410 million out of the bank fund, down about 3% from this year, and $115 million from the savings fund, a 360% increase over this year - although FDIC staffers said these figures are likely to change as the agency reviews how it charges its expenses.

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