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Manatee health department to lay off employees in January

MANATEE -- The Manatee County Health Department is bracing for layoffs early next year, due to state budget cuts, officials said Monday.

How many employees will be laid off, and which positions will be affected have yet to be decided, said Dr. Jennifer Bencie, administrator of the department.

The plan that will include details of the layoffs is being decided in Tallahassee, and has not yet been finalized, she said.

Local health department employees have been told that for the first time, there will be some layoffs, Bencie explained.

They were even asked to vote whether, once layoffs are officially approved, they preferred to be notified before or after the holidays, and the majority preferred to wait until early next month, Bencie said.

“We want to make sure the staff have a smooth transition,” she said in an interview at her office in Bradenton. “This is very difficult for everyone.”

State budget cutters have trimmed about $1 million from the department’s approximate $10 million budget, Bencie said. The local health department currently employs 154, down from 170 workers last year, she said.