On Monday, Dec. 14, the Joint Appropriations Committee heard Wyoming Department of Family Services' Director Korin Schmidt present her department's plan to cut its budget. This comes after Gov. Mark Gorden announced last month he wanted the state budget reduced by an additional $500 million, following 10 percent cuts in July.
Over a third of the $8.5 million that DFS will cut comes from reduced operations at the Wyoming Boys and Girls Schools, including the elimination of 21 positions.
"In both the Boys School and the Girls School, our hope would be," Schmidt told the committee, "that we can achieve the reduction in staffing numbers by attrition without having to go through a formal reduction in force process."
Attrition refers to eliminating vacant positions as opposed to laying off current staff.
Sublette County Rep. Albert Sommers applauded DFS for making what he called "balanced reductions."
"I thought you did the best job of any agency in... protecting the clients you serve while taking cuts inside of your agency," said Sommers.
But the families and children DFS serves aren't entirely shielded. Fremont County Rep. Lloyd Larsen asked Schmidt if proposed reductions in foster care payments might discourage families from signing up to care for children in need of safe homes.
Several committee members were also interested in a more formal review of Wyoming's approach to juvenile justice after hearing that for several years the number of juvenile delinquents placed by judges at the Boys School and Girls School had gone down. Schmidt described the cuts as right sizing operations and staffing to match the smaller population of kids at the two facilities.
She said the decrease in court ordered placements could be due to the success of local programs that support youth and redirect them away from risky behaviour that gets them in trouble. However, funding for the Community Juvenile Service Boards that do this work has also been cut, leaving it up to counties to fund programs without state support.