Christine Stuart photo
Correction Commissioner Scott Semple (Christine Stuart photo)

Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple informed his agency Thursday that it plans to layoff 147 employees.

“After working diligently to come up with cost saving measures, we were able to impact the number of layoffs significantly, but in the end they were not altogether avoidable,” Semple wrote. “Today, it is my duty to inform you that our agency’s savings plan has been approved. I regret to inform you that 147 Department of Correction employees are to be laid off.”

Semple wrote that the notification process is scheduled to begin in mid-April and he expects each impacted employee to be informed in person by their director or warden.

The letter was posted on Facebook by AFSCME Local 391, which is one of three bargaining units in the agency. AFSCME Council 4 represents about 5,000 employees in the Correction Department.

It was expected that the agency would be asked to layoff about 600 employees, but they were able to lower the number through other cost-cutting measures.

“For those of you who are ultimately impacted directly, my hope is that you may take some amount of solace in the knowledge that these actions are in no way a reflection of you. It is an unfortunate business decision that we must face as part of a new economic reality challenging our state,” Semple wrote.

Semple is one of the few state agency commissioner’s who has been communicating with his staff about the state’s fiscal condition and the threat of layoffs.

The news of the layoffs comes a week after the April 1 deadline for retirements. There were 360 retirement notices sent before the deadline, but Malloy has said even combined with 288 vacancies, it won’t be enough to avoid layoffs.

The governor has been careful not to give any numbers, but has described the layoffs as “very, very substantial.”

It’s still unclear how many layoffs will be made by other state agency commissioners.

The goal is to separate the state employees from in state service before June 9, so that they won’t be on the payroll after July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

Semple’s letter Thursday to employees is the first wave of announcements expected.

Malloy and legislative leaders have asked the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition to reopen its health and benefit package, which doesn’t expire until 2022. Union leaders have rejected their overtures and have instead called on the administration to find savings in the 2011 agreement.

The unions say the state over the past five years has failed to discourage the use of outside contractors and consultants and hasn’t worked with front-line employees to find efficiencies—two measures that were laid out in the first page of the 2011 contract.

The state is facing a $930 million deficit, according to the director of the Office of Fiscal Analysis.

This week the legislature proposed a budget that falls about $360 million short of closing the gap. Malloy has said he will release a budget next week that closes the entire gap for fiscal year 2017.