The North Carolina Biotechnology Center, grappling with forthcoming budget cuts from the state, has started a voluntary separation program for veteran staffers to resign their posts.

The program was announced at a Wednesday afternoon staff meeting, Biotech Center spokeswoman Robin Deacle said. The separations are expected to become effective Sept. 30.

Deacle said that the separation program is part of an overall review of Biotech Center programs as the center continues to look for ways to adjust to the final state budget. The allocation of $12.6 million represents a 26.7 percent cut in funding from current levels. Deacle said that no firm decisions have been made regarding program cuts or layoffs. But she acknowledged that the separation program is in response to the state budget.

“Just to reinforce this, this is a voluntary separation program,” Deacle said. “No one is being forced to take this.”

The Biotech Center currently employs 78. Of that total, 20 employees are eligible for the voluntary separation program. Eligibility is determined by a combination of age and years of service. If an employee’s numbers in those two categories add up to 70 or more, that employee is eligible to volunteer for the separation program. Anyone who volunteers to resign from the Biotech Center will receive a severance package.

The sign-up period for the program goes until Aug. 15. Under federal regulations, the employee has 45 days to review his or her options and make a decision. That means that by Sept. 30, the paperwork must be returned and the the separation would become effective.