Pay Raises, Prison Closing Among Budget Impacts
Pay raises for employees and the closing of another small prison unit are two of the biggest items affecting the Department of Correction as a result of budget alterations made by lawmakers during the 2000 legislative session.
Correction employees, like other State Government workers, may be eligible for salary increases up to 4.2 percent. A cost of living adjustment of 2.2 percent and a career growth increase of 2 percent were effective July 1. Employees will receive a $500 bonus, effective Oct. 1.
In other budget items, Currituck Correctional Center is the latest small prison unit to close in an effort to reduce costs and improve efficiency of operations. The facility was schedule to close Aug. 1. Currituck and other small prisons were targeted for closure as a result of a 1991 government audit committee that said the 1930s era prisons are inefficient to operate because of their small size. All but one of Currituck’s employees was assigned jobs in other facilities.
While staff at Currituck knew that the prison might close, the news still was difficult to take. "Being such a small unit, we really were like family in a way," said David Elliottt, acting superintendent at Currituck for a year. "As a manager, I was able to give employees time one-on-one to help resolve issues they may have been facing." Elliott said he also will miss the relationship the unit had with its Community Resource Council. "The members did a great job supporting us – both the staff and the inmates."
Overall the Department of Correction budget was reduced $13 million from last year’s amount. Correction’s budget adjustments were generated in a variety of ways, among them savings generated from more efficient operations and increased fees for some services. Among the items reduced on a permanent basis were costs associated with feeding inmates, providing uniforms for staff and providing pre-employment physicals. Funding of a pilot program that provided an aftercare component for IMPACT graduates was also eliminated, however the Department plans to incorporate aspects of that program into supervision requirements. Correction Enterprises will also now make an annual $500,000 transfer of receipts to the General Fund to help offset other reductions. In addition, there were one-time transfers from Correction Enterprises and the Inmate Welfare Fund of $2.75 million and $2.25 million, respectively, to the General Fund. Offender fees for drug tests, work release per diem and work release transportation were increased.
"The Department of Correction has risen to the Governor’s challenge of providing quality services with fewer resources," said Secretary Theodis Beck. "These efficiencies and savings helped the Governor achieve his goals of improving education and expanding Smart Start. It is incumbent upon all Correction employees to maintain our vigilance in how we spend the taxpayers’ money and in how we maximize our resources."
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