CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Thirty-seven state Division of Forestry workers spent their last day on the job Friday after a last-minute effort to prevent layoffs failed.
State Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin worked up until the deadline to work out a deal with Forestry Association to accept a higher timber tax, but the industry refused.
“To restore the tax to 2.78 (percent), take this on to the legislature,” Burdette said of the proposal. “He was willing to call the legislature into special session and try to facilitate something. About noon today, the Forestry Association contacted the governor’s office and said we’re staying the course.”
The 37 layoffs amount to about one-third of the DOF workforce. Because they’re based on seniority and not location, Burdette said some will be forced to consider relocation.
“They may put some of our people in a situation where they have to decide whether they’re willing to move,” Burdette said.
The result, Burdette said, is a lower tax on timber and a significant loss of jobs.
“Their tax is going to drop very dramatically from about 3.78 to 1.5 percent, and we’re going to lose 37 foresters in the process.”
The cuts put the DOF in a tough position, admitted Burdette, but revenue projection numbers that were about $1.5 million short didn’t lie.
“To be quite honest, it’s just bad all around, but we are working through it.”
The layoffs were orginally announced in June following a vote by the state Personnel Board, and scheduled to take effect July 15.