Local News

DOT could lay off hundreds of temporary workers

Posted December 5, 2008 2:58 p.m. EST
Updated December 5, 2008 7:10 p.m. EST

— Amid worsening budget forecasts, the North Carolina Department of Transportation had laid off 88 temporary workers as of Friday, officials said.

Hundreds more will likely could be laid off in the coming weeks, a department spokesman Ernie Seneca said. All of DOT's 930 temporary workers could face termination, but the department hopes to avoid that, Seneca said.

"The money for road work by these temporary workers is just not here because of the cuts on the federal level and slowdown in state revenues," Gov. Mike Easley said in a statement.

The employees laid off Friday worked for the Division of Highways and were responsible for maintenance and upkeep on highways, Seneca said. They made between $11 and $20 an hour.

DOT revenue is down 9 percent for the current fiscal year. DOT's chief- financial officer, Mark Foster, has projected an 11 to 12 percent budget shortfall – more than $300 million – during the fiscal year beginning next July. That could grow to to $1 billion over the next three years and $65 billion over the next 25 years.

In October, revenues were down 27 percent from the highway-use tax on automotive sales, 14 percent from DMV fees and 10 percent from the state fuel tax.

DOT has delayed 20 projects, including the Fayetteville Loop and New Bern Bypass. The department has also implemented a hiring freeze, stopped new equipment purchases and cut training and hiring.

Easley said that during a governors' summit in Philadelphia this week, he urged President-elect Barack Obama to direct economic-stimulus money toward road projects in North Carolina.

"The state transportation department has more than $5 billion worth of projects ready to go today, throughout the state, if the money was available from a federal stimulus program," Easley said. " These are projects that will help North Carolina and work to revive our economy."

Easley has ordered all state agencies to make budget cuts between 2 and 5 percent to make up for declining revenue. Officials have forecast the state budget could have a shortfall between $800 million and $1.6 billion this year and up to $3.3 billion next fiscal year.