Budget furlough days announced

Tech administrators have announced that four of the six furlough days required to be taken by the University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents (BoR) are to be taken from Dec. 21 to Dec. 24.

The remaining two furlough days are to be taken before May 10, 2010 and will be scheduled by agreement between individual employees and their school chair or supervisor. These days will not be designated by the Institute to be specific dates to provide flexibility.

Earlier this year, the BoR mandated that all USG employees take a minimum of six days of furlough during fiscal year 2010 due to the $900 million downturn in state revenue.

The furloughs are a last resort to help bridge the gap in smaller budgets. The BoR recommended and mandated these measures following the economic downturn and the necessity for budget cuts within the USG.

The primary objective in scheduling the furlough days was to minimize disruption of normal activities of the Institute. In particular, the furlough days should not result in the cancelation of scheduled classes or other instruction-related activities.

A set committee analyzed the calendar to determine potential dates for the furloughs, and then made recommendations for President Peterson and his administration. President Peterson confirmed them noted above as the official furlough days to be taken by faculty and staff.

“Dec. 21-24 is when we work, but it doesn’t affect students. Students will be away having a holiday so it was done to minimize the effects on the education of students. If you think about it if a faculty is teaching five days a week, when is he or she going to take a furlough day without cancelling a class? So we just didn’t want that to happen so we took the 4 days right before Christmas,” said Dr. Anderson D. Smith, senior Vice Provost of Academic Affairs.

This time period was chosen because it is during the winter break, and consequently, there will be no classes taking place. Students therefore would not be directly affected.

“Things are kind of slow here and there aren’t a lot of events on campus,” said Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson.

While it is expected that faculty and staff will be furloughed during this time frame, there will be some exceptions. Employees can, with a business-related exception, request to take the four furlough days at another time.

“There may be reasons why those days don’t work for some people. For our development staff, that’s right before the end of the year and people do tax and give gifts related to tax benefits right before the end of the year so it is a very busy time for the development staff. So for special situations a supervisor can have their employees take different days. However, the vast majority of people at Georgia Tech will take those days,” Peterson said.

The two remaining furlough days will be taken during the spring semester before May 10, 2010. In the spring, the Tech administration will allow much more flexibility as far as selecting the affected days. There are no preferred dates. The decision will be left up to the employees and their supervisors to choose which days furloughs will be taken.

“We were going to do a couple days during spring break or a couple of days after commencement but we’ve got a lot of activities going on on-campus like short courses and other things. So that was a little more complicated. There are no short courses the days before Christmas,” Peterson said.

“For the two days in the spring semester, we will also emphasize that we don’t want faculty members picking days that will interfere with their classes,” said Smith.

These furloughs will allow a recovery of around $6.3 million. USG’s funding cuts can be attributed to the budget reduction earlier this year.

The fiscal year 2009 saw a $44 million reduction in the operating budget.

This year the governor asked the Institute to submit scenarios of budgets representing a further four to eight percent decrease. Those scenarios represent a further $5 million to $15 million budget cut.

“This was not a decision made on the Georgia Tech campus. It was made for the whole system by the Board of Regents,” Smith said.

USG and BoR officials and members are currently looking into and implementing various options to help result budget deficits, delayed hiring and refilling of vacated positions, budget cuts throughout the institute and the academic excellence fee that was added onto the tuition.

The addition of an academic excellence fee starting next semester (which would affect nearly all Tech students) will also be voted on within USG later next week.

Academic units last year experienced a 4.6% decrease in operating budgets and non-academic units experienced a 7.8% cut. It was left up to individual units to decide how those cuts were to be made. However, it was asked of academic units to minimize the effect on students’ education.

“For example, it looked like an easy way to make cuts this past summer was to not teach many summer semester classes. However, we realized that would be very bad for students as the summer semester is cramped enough as it is now without as many classes as we would like to have,” Smith said.