Ten S.C. Disabilities and Special Needs workers laid off, victims of budget cuts

COLUMBIA -- Dentsville resident Delbert Baltus had retired, but he did not want to stop working.

Baltus, 70, is one of a handful of state workers who learned last week they would be laid off from the S.C. Department of Disabilities and Special Needs on Sept. 1.

As more state budget cuts loom and the economy teeters on the edge of recession, Baltus said he and nine other workers all participants in the Teacher and Employee Retention Program were told their jobs had been cut. Baltus had worked for the state agency in maintenance for 28 years.

Though the state expects more budget cuts this year, no other agencies said last week that they have plans to lay off employees.

Disabilities and Special Needs spokeswoman Lois Park Mole said the layoffs were part of a routine evaluation of agency staffing and not related to this year's state budget cuts. She said the agency's Midlands Center is serving fewer clients than it did five years ago and, thus, needs fewer workers.

Baltus joined the TERI program at the start of July, he said, in part because colleagues said the benefits being able to collect a pension while still working were worthwhile. Baltus thinks the decision cost him his position.

"I should not have gone on TERI," he said. "I probably would have still had a job."

TERI employees may be laid off at any time, according to state retirement system rules, said Mike Sponhour, spokesman for the S.C. Budget and Control Board.