In the aftermath of legislative decisions to close five prisons and three juvenile justice facilities, the state Department of Public Safety has handed out $1.4 million in severance payments to employees who have been laid off.
The figure represents by far the most severance payments from any state agency in the current fiscal year.
State lawmakers set aside a $16 million reserve for state employee severance payments for 2013-14. No other state agency or public university had handed out even half of the $1,440,565 in severance payments that have come from the Department of Public Safety during the first six months of the fiscal year, according to figures presented Tuesday to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations.
Besides the amount paid, another $5.9 million has been set aside for future severance payments by the department, but agency officials say they do not expect to "use even close to that amount." To date, 206 former agency employees have received severance payments after being laid off, department officials said.
Legislators decided to close five prisons – in Duplin, Robeson, Wayne, Bladen and Burke counties – in response to a prison population that has been falling, from 41,357 in June 2011 to 37,204 in early January. Those closures affected 560 filled positions, with 481 workers transferred to other jobs but 61 laid off and receiving severance payments.
Juvenile Justice facilities in Lenoir, Buncombe and Richmond counties were also closed. Department officials said layoffs also occurred due to consolidations at the Highway Patrol communications center and budget cuts within Alcohol Law Enforcement.
The agency expects more layoffs in connection with the closing of the Western Youth Institution in Morganton and the conversion of the Johnston Correction Institution from a medium to a minimum custody facility. Other severance payouts reported to legislators on Tuesday included $513,598 from Elizabeth City State University, $163,520 from the Department of Cultural Resources and $157,033 from the Department of Insurance.