Georgia Board of Regents approves employee furlough plan for state colleges

The Georgia Board of Regents approved a plan Thursday that gives University System of Georgia leaders authority to potentially furlough employees, with those earning higher salaries taking larger cuts.

Most University System of Georgia employees would have to take four or eight furlough days as part of the plan, system Chancellor Steve Wrigley said.

Wrigley and the presidents of each of the system’s 26 public colleges and universities would take the equivalent of a 10% pay reduction which includes 26 furlough days for fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1.

The furloughs are part of the system’s plan, which is still in the works, to meet the state government’s demands for each agency to cut its budget by 14% for the next fiscal year. Wrigley and system officials stressed that the plan could change and will be based on the final budget appropriation to be approved in June by Gov. Brian Kemp and state lawmakers.

State leaders say the cuts are needed to fill a budget gap created by the coronavirus pandemic. State tax revenues dropped by about $1 billion in April, officials said Wednesday.

Colleges and universities in Georgia and across the nation are making similar cuts.

Early estimates by the system show the plan would save the system about $40 million in state funds, officials told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The system needs to cut about $361 million to meet the state’s 14% budget cut requirement.

Wrigley said in a letter Friday that layoffs and furloughs may be necessary to meet the budget gap.

“We don’t really have a choice,” Wrigley told Board of Regents members during a conference call Thursday. “We want to be strategic. We want to be fair.”

The furloughs are the latest major fiscal decision made by the board as a result of the pandemic. The board voted last month not to increase tuition for any of the system's colleges and universities.

University of North Georgia assistant English professor Matthew Boedy, conference president of Georgia’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, called Thursday’s decision “the least painful option in these perilous times.”

“I appreciate the chancellor softening the blow as much as he could to the large majority of USG employees, those he noted make under $99,000,” Boedy told the AJC.

The United Campus Workers of Georgia on Wednesday said if there are furloughs that higher-paid employees should be more greatly impacted. They recommended no furloughs for workers making less than $65,000 annually.

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