Georgia’s public universities propose cuts to meet state budget gap

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to include the correct number of furlough days that could be required of higher-paid University System employees.

Georgia’s largest public universities have proposed layoffs, not filling many positions and cutting back some programs to meet budget cuts ordered by state leaders to fill a revenue decline created by the coronavirus pandemic.

The plans from the 26 schools and other University System of Georgia facilities include eliminating 735 positions that are currently filled and not filling or eliminating another 1,341 jobs, according to a 51-page plan the system submitted to state officials last week. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution received a copy of the document through the Georgia Open Records Act.

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University System officials stressed the plan is not final until state lawmakers agree on a revised budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 that is signed by Gov. Brian Kemp. Lawmakers have returned for budget committee hearings this week and are expected to adopt the budget in June.

State tax collections declined nearly 36% in April and Georgia's unemployment rate last month hit an all-time record of 11.9%. Lawmakers and Kemp's budget officials told all state agencies, including the University System, earlier this month to send a revised budget that cuts spending by 14%. For the University System, that amounts to a $361 million cut.

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The plan could have major implications for the University System of Georgia, if it is adopted in its current draft. While few cuts mention faculty, many proposed job losses include administrative staff and cuts to student success programs.

The University of Georgia said in its report the proposed changes to its central business office would lead to a “severe disruption in service” that will result in delays in student account processing and in hiring. UGA’s plan would lay off about 220 workers.

Two schools — Georgia State University and the University of North Georgia — have proposed voluntary separation plans for retirement-eligible employees. Georgia State believes its separation plan would eliminate 181 jobs. The North Georgia plan does not include how many jobs would be eliminated.

The budget plan includes a proposal approved earlier this month by the Georgia Board of Regents to furlough workers, with higher-paid employees taking as many as 16 days.