The Board of Regents’ authorization for 14% budget cuts at all University System of Georgia institutions follows by one year Georgia Southern University’s 10% budget “redirection” in response to enrollment declines on its campuses before and during consolidation.
A regents’ vote Thursday morning “provides authority” for the system-wide budget cutting plan, according to the headline of the University System’s news release.
“Any action related to staffing reductions and furloughs will be based on the final budget appropriation to be approved in June,” the announcement stated. “The Board’s approval allows institutions and the system office to respond to the state’s request for a plan to reduce spending by 14% starting July 1.”
One week earlier, top budget makers in the Georgia General Assembly had notified heads of all state agencies to prepare for a 14% cut because of revenue declines resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. July 1, 2020, is the opening date of the state’s 2021 fiscal year.
Allowed and required
After first referring to what the regents’ vote “allows,” and then to provided “guidance,” Thursday’s University System of Georgia announcement indicates things that the universities and colleges will be required to do, particularly in regard to furlough days.
“The Board’s guidance, to be reflected in each campus plan, requires faculty and staff at all 26 USG colleges and universities as well as the (system staff) to take a minimum number of days of unpaid time off depending on their salary range, with the exception of those with the lowest base salaries,” the release stated.
For University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley and all USG institutional presidents, such as Georgia Southern University’s Kyle Marrero, the announced pay reduction for fiscal year 2021 is 10%, including 26 furlough days.
Other USG employees with base salaries in the top bracket, $154,000 and above, will be required to take 16 furlough days, or the equivalent of a 6.2% pay reduction.
For most other employees, the requirement will be either four furlough days or eight furlough days, depending on their salaries, the announcement stated.
No cut for lowest paid
A chart accompanying the announcement shows that the four-furlough-day bracket is for employees with salaries in the $33,476 to $58,756 range and amounts to a 1.5% pay cut. Those with salaries in the $58,757 to $98,999 range will experience eight furlough days, for a 3.1% pay cut. Those with salaries of $99,000-$153,999 will see 12 furlough days, a 4.6% cut.
But zero furlough days – in other words no pay reductions – are indicated for university employees making $33,475 or less.
Colleges, universities and USG staff “may also need to adjust staffing levels to meet operational needs and address the immediate impact of revenue and funding losses,” the release continued. “These plans, including the number of impacted employees, will be unique to each institution.”
A query to Georgia Southern’s university communications office Friday morning drew a reply that any questions related to the budget should be directed to the University System of Georgia’s communications office. An email Friday afternoon to a USG spokesman about whether institutions that have undergone previous budget cuts will be given any leeway did not receive a reply by press time.
Beginning in early 2019, Georgia Southern officials made a 10% budget “redirection,” cutting spending in many areas for the current fiscal year’s budget, but putting a portion of the money to new use in a marketing campaign and other efforts to boost enrollment. This followed enrollment declines that affected especially the Armstrong campus in Savannah, but to a smaller extent also the original Georgia Southern campus in Statesboro, before and after consolidation.
Effective Jan. 1, 2018, that merger made the former Armstrong State University, with its main campus in Savannah and a commuter campus in Hinesville, part of Georgia Southern. The last two years a fourth campus, the “online campus,” has been counted separately in the university’s enrollment numbers.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, almost all of Georgia Southern’s and other USG schools’ classes moved online-only the week of April 1 for the remainder of spring semester. At Georgia Southern, that semester concluded this week, but all summer session courses will also be conducted exclusively through online instruction.
“Employees of the University System of Georgia and our 26 colleges and universities continue to show resilience and dedication despite facing uncertainty and unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Chancellor Wrigley said in Thursday’s release.
“Their work has been instrumental in supporting not only USG’s 333,000 students, but thousands of Georgians across the state,” he said. “I deeply appreciate the contributions of our employees impacted by these measures, and ask all of us to show our respect, compassion and gratitude for their service to our students.”