The "Furlough Bill"

April 23, 2010

Dear Colleagues:

Many have been asking about what is informally known as the “Furlough Bill” and its implications for Western. First, please understand that this bill has not yet become law. That requires the Governor`s signature; we understand that conversations concerning provisions of the legislation remain active in the Capitol; and the final version, (we are told it will be signed on April 27th), could be significantly shaped by implementing direction from OFM. So, uncertainty remains.

Human Resources has created a web page explaining the nuances of the bill as we currently understand them. On that page, you will also find a “Frequently Asked Questions” page and a forum where you can ask additional questions.

Once there is clarity, we likely will be required to develop a plan and may be required to do so in short order. This plan must engage our shared best thinking. So, discussion needs to begin even as the current lack of clarity continues.

In broad outline, we can expect the plan to require savings of $1,172,000. These savings are to come from reduced personnel expenses. And, these savings are on top of the $3,073,000 base budget reduction that the legislature recently added to the $9,500,000 our campus has already made to the operating budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Furloughs are but one example of the type of “reduced personnel expenses” that the bill provides for (but does not require). The other significant option would be further layoffs, keeping vacant positions vacant, and reductions in FTE beyond those necessary to meet the $3,073,000 base budget reduction target. The possibilities for such further reductions would come from the list under consideration for that base budget reduction that were presented here. There may also be some interest – several have asked me about this – in individuals voluntarily seeking a temporary reduction in the FTE associated with their position.

The target we must meet is reduced significantly in two ways. Agencies may “claim credit” for certain reductions in payroll expenses previously and voluntarily taken. A prime example used in legislative discussion of this provision was the step taken by Western faculty to suspend a previously negotiated contractual commitment to provide $213,000 in merit pay. The faculty voluntarily took this temporary suspension in compensation in order to allow additional class sections and to protect employment for adjuncts. There is, in addition, about $400,000 in one-time savings related to complexities in the way the 2010-11 budget ended up that we could also use. These two items, taken together, cut in half the target we will need to meet.

When it comes to furloughs, there are many complexities to consider, important among these being the effects upon the educational commitments of Western. Any furlough days would likely best be scheduled between sessions (September, December, January, March). And, because of the complexities that derive from ways in which positions and differences in funding sources relate, we would likely need to consider simply closing the university for the one or more days that would involve furloughs. This would, then, require that those not subject to furloughs use vacation. Certain of our colleagues would be exempt by legislation (e.g., public safety, those directly involved in instruction).

Any plan has serious consequences, be it furloughs, further layoffs, or some combination. Considering furloughs, there are serious consequences for incomes that individuals and families depend upon. As pernicious are the consequences for our community of an approach that requires unequal sacrifices.

Absolutely no decisions have been reached. I am writing at this time and even as there is not complete certainty as to what we will face in order to encourage your best thinking about these subjects. We are likely to need to provide Olympia with a plan by mid-May.

For our represented colleagues, we look forward to collaborating with your union leadership in refining and then evaluating the options available. They need your best guidance and will be seeking it from you. Professional staff should engage with leaders of the Professional Staff Organization. These leaders – PSO, unions, governance – will figure importantly in the development of our plan.

I am sure you have many questions about the nuances. I certainly do. Do check out the HR web page and help focus and refine it by submitting questions.

Thank you in advance for helping us thoughtfully address this very serious matter.

My best,

Bruce

Page Updated 11.27.2013