Georgia university system leader says layoffs may be necessary

University System Chancellor Steve Wrigley. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

University System Chancellor Steve Wrigley. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Layoffs and furloughs may be necessary to meet the state’s new budget requirements, the University System of Georgia Chancellor wrote in a letter Friday to faculty and staff.

Gov. Brian Kemp's budget office and state legislative leaders told state agencies, which includes the University System, they should plan on cutting about $3.5 billion from their budgets in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1. Each agency should expect to cut 14% from their already tight spending plans.

Wrigley said in his letter that “among actions that may be taken include furloughs and layoffs. Additionally, we are placing a hold on all vacant positions not deemed essential, and remain committed to a critical hire process for the few that are. We will be faced with some uncertainty until the FY21 budget is adopted and approved.”

Kemp's office ordered state agencies to cut their budgets before the coronavirus pandemic, by 4% this fiscal year and 6% for the next fiscal year to both prepare for a potential economic slowdown and pay for his priorities, such as the teacher pay raise. Some projections say the lasting economic slowdown will cut revenue by more than $3 billion in fiscal 2021. The state's proposed FY 2021 budget was about $28 billion.

The Georgia Board of Regents, which governs the University System, voted last month not to raise tuition at the system's 26 colleges and universities because of the pandemic's impact on students and their families.

Wrigley said he must submit a plan to the state by no later than May 20. The chancellor’s letter asked the schools to be strategic in their approach to proposing cuts, saying “across the board cuts are not permitted.”

A University System spokesman declined to comment about Wrigley’s letter.

“Our priority continues to be helping our students complete a college education,” Wrigley wrote. “Our mission is more critical than ever as we take a leading role in helping all Georgians recover.”