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Strategic Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC)
Strategic Budget Advisory Committee

ISU Officials Take Weeklong Furloughs to Fill Budget Gaps

March 23, 2009

By Kiah Haslett - Daily Nebraskan

In order to cut $7.2 million from the Iowa State University budget, officials are leaving. For a week.

The recession has reduced resources available to colleges and universities around the nation, inducing hiring freezes, layoffs and furloughs. Schools such as Iowa State and Arizona State University are using voluntary and mandatory furloughs and one to two week unpaid vacations to fill a small portion of gaping budget holes.

ISU President Gregory Geoffrey announced the legislature-mandated 2.5 percent, or $7.2 million,  budget cut in late December, said John McCarroll, ISU’s executive director of University Relations.

“One way of dealing with that was (Geoffrey) and 27 other top university leaders announced they would be taking one week or five working days on unpaid leave before June 30,” McCarroll said.

After Geoffrey’s announcement, other ISU officials decided to join the furlough movement, including the athletic director, football coach and men’s and women’s basketball coaches.

In the end, the returned salaries of the top 32 administrators and officials totaled $180,000.

“After it was announced, there was interest from other employees, faculty and staff, that they would like to help out,” McCarroll said.

The idea of mandatory furloughs for all staff and faculty was ultimately rejected, he said, because of possible issues with unionized employees.

McCarroll said the announcement was made without any expectations of employee participation and no monetary target.

“There are 6,000 faculty and staff at ISU,” McCarroll said. “If one had stepped forward, that would be nice.”

So far, 252 faculty and staff members have notified ISU payroll about returning a week’s salary, with an estimated value of $420,575. In addition, 90 employees have made financial gifts of $87,000. Overall, employee efforts have saved the school $570,742.

“The furlough gifts help, but it’s not major help. It’s not half of the total cut, but it certainly does help,” McCarroll said. “I know the president was very appreciative. He was very gratified that the faculty and staff had stepped forward to help out. It shows people care about the university and students’ availability to get their education.”

The furloughs will happen quietly and if all goes well, without students’ notice.

“If a faculty member wants to take a furlough, he or she can’t take it on a day they have classes,” McCarroll said. “Furloughs are not to interfere with the ability of students to take classes or graduate on time.”

In addition to the staff furloughs, ISU has delayed building maintenance and renovations, and individual departments have kept staff vacancies open. So far, ISU has not laid-off employees in order to cut costs.

At Arizona State University, administrators are not giving their 12,000 staff and faculty members a choice. ASU President Michael Crow announced Jan. 28 that all staffers must take at least 10 days of unpaid leave, while administrators must take 15.

The mandatory furloughs will save the university $24 million out of $53 million that must be cut.

Like ISU, the faculty furloughs cannot interfere with students’ learning and will be staggered throughout the rest of the year.

ASU administrators didn’t return calls made by the Daily Nebraskan.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is not facing the kind of drastic, mid-year budget cuts ASU and ISU are facing, said Christine Jackson, vice chancellor of Business and Finance.

“That’s all speculation,” she said. “UNL is a different university, nothing like ISU. It’s speculation and we don’t want to get into that.”

kiahhaslett@dailynebraskan.com