GOSHEN — Elkhart County was able to avoid laying off employees when planning for 2013, but the local highway department wasn’t so lucky this week.
Friday was the last day of work for three people at the Elkhart County Highway Department. The layoffs came after the department discovered that its budget for staff exceeded its income, according to county personnel director Carol Caviness. Besides the three employees who were dismissed, the department got rid of about 10 vacant positions that were funded in the 2012 budget.
“We definitely stressed to the people who were laid off that it was absolutely nothing performance-related or disciplinary,” Caviness said. “We regret having to let them go. We’re really hoping that they can find other positions within county government.”
Caviness said the three people who were laid off will receive severance packages based on their years of service.
Up until Friday, the highway department had been carrying 78 positions. With the three layoffs and 10 vacant positions that were eliminated, the highway department’s staff will be down to 65 employees, Caviness said.
The impact of the 13 positions plus cuts in other areas, like supplies, in the highway department’s budget could be as much as $500,000, Caviness estimated. Personnel would account for less than $300,000 of that total.
Highway department manager Jeff Taylor declined to comment about the layoffs, citing respect for the privacy of his former employees.
The three people who lost their jobs Friday were part of the highway department’s clerical and administrative staff, Caviness confirmed.
“The work that was being done by those three people, some of it will be absorbed by other staff,” she said. “Some of the stuff just won’t get done, but the intention behind deciding on those positions was that the highway department has to be able to pave roads and patch holes. The other stuff is nice to have, but in this economic climate, it really can’t be done.”
Caviness said no other county departments have recently been forced to lay off staff. In 2010, she said, 30 positions were eliminated from the county’s employee roster. Many of those positions were unfilled, but seven or eight full-time and part-time employees lost their jobs. In its spending plan for 2013, the county was able to save $275,686 by leaving five positions vacant and reorganizing jobs in other departments.