BISMARCK, N.D. — Facing the prospect of jobs cuts due to North Dakota’s struggling finances, about 100 employees from cabinet-level agencies have expressed interest in taking voluntary buyouts.
Republican Gov. Doug Burgum last month gave appointed agency heads the option to offer the buyouts, and letters went out to some 3,600 employees with the offer. In a letter drafted by Burgum’s office, the agencies told employees the buyouts might limit the need for layoffs.
North Dakota has 17 executive-level agencies, and 11 offered the buyouts. Each agency offering the buyouts had takers, along with at least one person from the governor’s office, said Becky Sicble, the state’s interim human resources director.
The deadline to apply for a buyout is Monday, and it’s up to the agencies to determine which buyouts are accepted, Sicble said.
The North Dakota Legislature adjourned last month after passing a $4.3 billion general fund budget, which was $1.7 billion less than the one passed two years ago due to struggling energy and agriculture prices.
Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor “fully supported” the buyouts but there was no target for the number of employees
The agencies participating include the state Highway Patrol to the Health Department. The options for the buyouts range from a lump-sum payout of three months’ salary to accepting no pay but staying on the state’s health insurance plan for a year.
Officials estimate the average annual salary and benefits for each state employee is about $81,000.
North Dakota United President Nick Archuleta, whose union represents more than 11,500 public employees, said the option of buyouts is better than having to cut workers.
“We appreciate the attempt to soften the landing for some,” Archuleta said. “The agencies could have just fired people.”
Archuleta said he knows of one worker who wants to take the buyout with hopes his younger colleague, and new father, would keep his job.