Workers in a small maintenance department at Kilgore College have been given notice their last day on the payroll is Aug. 31. The job cuts are among almost 40 positions eliminated at the college this fiscal year, representing 10 percent of its workforce.
Layoffs of three maintenance workers, and early retirement of two, continues budget trimming that college President Bill Holda said officials began discussing in 2010, with the privatization of custodial and grounds crews coming first.
The maintenance layoffs are touchy, given the department is home to three employees who have signed affidavits describing improper asbestos abatement practices at the college.
One of those workers, David Roberts, said Thursday that he reluctantly submitted forms for his retirement after 27 years at the college.
"They just told me in (human resources) to go ahead and get this done," he said. "They told me the first part of this week that our last day would be July 31, and (that) I need to to go ahead and get my retirement packet sent in."
Roberts said that he was told the following day the new, private company would begin at the college on Aug. 31 and was offered the option of pushing his retirement to that date, which he did.
"I said I'd like to extend it another 10 years," he added. "It's not their problem that I can't find a job because of my age. I'll find a job."
Roberts, Physical Plant Coordinator Dalton Smith and another co-worker recently signed affidavits describing improper asbestos procedures and suggesting college administrators ordered them.
The three sworn statements were sent to the Texas Department of State Health Services and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The agencies have declined to speak on potential or pending probes.
Holda said the three-year privatization of custodial, grounds and maintenance departments was discussed beginning in October 2010, well before the college was accused by the employees of mishandling asbestos.
"We can prove we were discussing this (privatization) as far back as five years ago," Holda said. "And I have at least two dates prior to the asbestos stuff that I can prove we met prior to this stuff."
Broader job cuts at Kilgore College occurred this past school year and will feature prominently in coming budget decisions for the 2015-16 school year, Holda said.
Cuts have affected personnel to the tune of 38 positions eliminated through retirement, resignation and termination.
"And that's just the tip of the iceberg," Holda said. "We are looking at travel, state assistance, institutional memberships, allocated charges (for shared departments), equipment purchases, repairs — just about everything you can imagine."
Holda emailed a group called "KCBusiness" on June 11 saying the coming budget cycle is "not just another year."
The email noted that declines in enrollment, state revenue, local taxable values and other factors put the spending plan that wraps up Aug. 31 "about $2 million out of balance."
"It's really about $3.6 million out of whack," Holda said Thursday.