State budget cuts prompt layoffs at WyomingPBS

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Officials at Central Wyoming College, licensee of WyomingPBS in Riverton, announced that two full-time workers and one-part time employee at the station have been laid off.

GM Terry Dugas said in a statement that employees in the administrative and production departments were affected. The cuts are the result of a 10% statewide budget reduction spurred in part by the coronavirus pandemic, according to an announcement from Brad Tyndall, the college’s president.

“As a state, Wyoming faces unique challenges,” Dugas said. “We’re looking at a potential $1.5 billion dollar revenue shortfall over two years in a state of only 550,000 people. This shortfall represents a very real threat to the continued existence of WyomingPBS.”

“My overriding goal is to maintain enough staff to continue providing essential services to the state,” Dugas said.

The cuts were first reported by the Wyoming News Exchange.

With the reduction, the station is down to 18 full-time employees and one part-time employee and will receive around $1.5 million from the state. But the state may make an additional 10% budget cut this year, Dugas said, which “would trigger an additional 10% reduction in staff.”

In 2016, the Wyoming station laid off two staffers after former Gov. Matt Mead ordered cuts to state agencies. State aid used to cover 60% of the station’s income. Dugas anticipates it will now cover around 45% of the budget.

The cuts have affected locally produced programming. The station decided to cancel its regional Emmy Award–winning series Farm to Fork Wyoming, which covers ranching and agricultural issues. But Dugas said he hopes to continue producing episodes using a contractor rather than a staff producer.

Tyndall said there will be furloughs throughout the Central Wyoming College system. Dugas said WyomingPBS “will follow the furlough reduction” but noted that staff making under $40,000 each year will not be affected. Staff making more than that will take furloughs on a sliding scale, which will result in an average 2.5% reduction in staff salaries.

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