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New details released on state government job cuts
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New details released on state government job cuts

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Capitol

The historic Wyoming Capitol building is lit up at night on Feb. 10, 2020, in Cheyenne.

Almost a year ago, Gov. Mark Gordon announced that hundreds of state jobs would be eliminated as part of sweeping budget cuts.

Only a fraction of the cuts resulted in layoffs — most of the positions were vacant. State agency budget reductions will not be officially completed until July 1, but officials have released more details about the job cuts.

The reductions eliminated 324 positions across 25 agencies. Of those, 297 were full-time.

So far, there have been 17 actual layoffs, with a potential for 15 more. Those 15 are not finalized because it’s still possible that a department can instead cut a vacant position or transfer the employee to a different agency.

“The actual number of ‘layoffs’ are not final at this time, as we are still identifying vacant, funded positions that could be substituted for occupied positions,” said Michael Pearlman, communications director for the governor.

The departments that recorded the highest number of eliminated positions were the Department of Corrections, the Department of Family Services and State Parks with 165, 52 and 28 positions lost, respectively.

Cuts will result in roughly 20 to 30 layoffs of Wyoming state workers

Department of Corrections

The 165 positions lost are roughly 13% of the department’s authorized strength. Of those positions, 161 were full time and four were contract workers.

Fourteen resulted in layoffs — the remaining 151 were vacant, according to department spokesman Paul Martin.

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The 14 layoffs included eight people from the department’s central office including a records manager, an investigations lieutenant and a spokesman. Accreditation coordinators from each of the five prison sites and one training academy lieutenant were also let go.

“The reductions were impactful to the Department, however we continue to follow nationally recognized correctional standards in our policies and in our practices,” Martin said.

Department of Family Services

The Department of Family Services handles a broad range of functions in state government. It deals with child abuse and neglect, adult protection services, juvenile justice services, food assistance and child care.

Of the 52 eliminated jobs, 50 were full time and two were contract workers. Forty-one of the eliminated positions were vacant, according to Clint Hanes, the department’s spokesman. While the department has not laid off anyone yet, 11 of the eliminated positions are currently occupied. The Department of Family Services is still in the process of finding a way to “reduce positions through attrition or transfer whenever possible while maintaining a balanced budget,” Hanes wrote in an email.

The department is working to ensure that “most, if not all” of the remaining 11 positions can be eliminated through attrition, Hanes added.

This state agency will see a 7.3% reduction in the number of appropriated positions as a result of the cuts.

State Parks

Twenty-six of the 28 eliminated State Parks positions were vacant. As for the two that were laid off, one was a social media coordinator and who was reassigned within the state parks system. The other was a content manager who ended up retiring with full benefits after 37 years with the state parks, according to Gary Schoene, the agency’s public information officer. Of the 28 eliminated jobs, 11 were full time and 17 were part time.

These budget cuts came in response to a major revenue shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a downturn in the energy industry that Wyoming relies on to drive a major chunk of its economy.

The layoffs mark the first time since the 1980s that state workers will lose their jobs as a result of budget reductions, according to a previous Star-Tribune report. Past rounds of cuts were managed by eliminating vacant positions or by shuffling workers between agencies.“The Governor is extremely proud of how his cabinet and agencies handled the extraordinary budget challenges of the past year,” Pearlman said. “We have seen the impacts of some of the cuts that were made, and many others only start in July and so the impacts and reductions in services will start next month.”

Follow state politics reporter Victoria Eavis on Twitter @Victoria_Eavis

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