Beverly MacFarlane thought that after 24 years at the Utah Department of Human Services filled with glowing performance reviews, her job would be safe from state budget cuts.
She was wrong.
Last month, MacFarlane says, she was given an ultimatum: take early retirement or her job as a contract analyst would be eliminated.
"It just is not fair to do this to people," says MacFarlane, who was let go, along with the two other most senior employees in her bureau. She is contesting her termination. "I wasn't somebody who was just sitting in my desk wasting away."
MacFarlane's is one of 1,460 state jobs shed by state government over the past year -- one in nearly every 20 full-time positions.
The numbers are likely to get worse before they get better unless the economy does a quick turnaround. Already, 74 more Human Services positions have been eliminated since the last week of July.
The figures through the end of July were compiled by The Salt Lake Tribune through a series of open records requests to the state Department of Human Resource Management and other state agencies. The numbers include cuts at the public education headquarters, but not school teachers, who are hired by their respective school districts.
Jeff Herring, executive director of the Department of Human Resources, said former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. tried to give agencies as much discretion as possible in cutting budgets. "A one-size-fits-all is not an approach that works for everyone," he said.
He said agencies turned to things like offering incentives for early retirement, imposing hiring freezes to keep positions vacant or eliminating some probation or temporary positions.
There were 71 layoffs -- or reductions-in-force, as they are called -- in the executive branch.
"There was as much compassion as possible," Herring said.
"I was deeply concerned there would be far greater cuts," said Senate budget chairman Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan. "It means that maybe we were overstaffed in people and we've been able to make some adjustments with less people to be able to provide services basically at an acceptable level, or maybe we can find ways to deliver services differently."
Hillyard and other legislative leaders are expected to hear a report on similar numbers when they meet today on Capitol Hill.
Audrey Wood, executive director of the Utah Public Employees Association, which represents the state's government workers, said she feared the job cuts would be much worse.
"It's heartbreaking to have those employees come in and they have worked for a number of years and now have no position and nowhere to go," she said. "While I don't want to minimize the people who have lost their jobs ... I think the impact has been a lot less than what had been expected, because I think a lot of agencies are taking care of [budget cuts] in-house."
Utah's colleges and universities have suffered the deepest reductions, shaving 919 faculty and staff positions since last year -- 223 of them involuntary cuts. The University of Utah lost 365 jobs (most of them nonteaching positions); Utah State, 179; and Salt Lake Community College, 101.
"You can't eliminate 900-some positions without it really affecting the overall quality of the collegiate experience," says Commissioner of Higher Education William Sederburg. "We do know it is a very negative consequence on our college campuses and it really translates into fewer opportunities for students."
The staffing cuts come at a time when enrollment is surging, with Salt Lake Community College, for example, projecting an enrollment increase of up to 30 percent.
"You're going to see this fall [semester], I think, a significant enrollment with the threat of further cuts to come," he said.
College presidents have done their best to cope with the cuts, Sederburg said, but to totally offset the reductions would require a tuition increase of about 40 percent. As it is, students will be paying about 7 percent more on average for their tuition.
At the Department of Human Services, which provides child protection, disability services and mental health services, 256 positions have been eliminated since January -- 74 just in the past three weeks.
"The reality is there are jobs that are being sacrificed, it's not needless work, but there is a mandate" to balance the budget, said Liz Solis, a spokeswoman for the department. "It's kind of a fine line, because we're balancing client needs with budget cuts."
As the department has eroded positions, its goal has been to avoid cuts that would hinder the department's mission, she said.
"Our agency isn't a service that can just be provided online," she said.
At the Utah Department of Corrections, the first focus was to maintain staffing at the prison, and deputy director Michael Haddon says administrators have been able to do that. But it meant taking steps like moving parole agents into lower-paid corrections officer positions or demoting supervisors.
The department also absorbed staff from a halfway house, a drug treatment program and a diagnostic program.
Administrators are taking on more duties, Haddon said, and the number of parolees each agent is responsible for supervising has increased, but by using early retirement incentives and a hiring freeze imposed last year, corrections only had to lay off three people.
"Its one of those bittersweet things where we didn't have to basically [lay off] too many people, but we did have a significant number who took a drop in pay," he said.
Utah State Court Administrator Dan Becker said the courts system has whittled down 65.5 positions -- although 18 court clerks were spared, at least for this year, by a short-term federal grant.
There was an effort, he said, to make the cuts in a way that wouldn't affect court operations, even as the courts have seen filings increase 15 percent, largely because of a spike in debt collections and contract dispute cases fueled by the economic conditions.
For example, the state has eliminated all of its court reporters, accelerating a transition to digital recording; it contracted with a company for custodial services; and it eliminated 11 administrative spots and one law clerk position.
"We're stretched very thin, particularly because of the increase in case filings, but we've been able to address most other areas affecting the public as little as possible," Becker said.
One area where public services will be affected, he said, is in the elimination of 11½ juvenile probation officers, meaning the remaining officers will have larger caseloads.
As daunting as this year's job cuts have been, more could be coming.
The Legislature used federal stimulus money to soften state budget cuts and that money will disappear next July.
"I'm concerned what happens next as we get through the low hanging fruit," Hillyard said. In addition to the lapsing federal funds, the state has to fill another $700 million shortfall, which he said will likely mean an additional 4 percent budget cut, and potentially more state jobs getting the axe.