Campus leaders explain furlough/salary reduction plan to staff

Staff members filled the Media Theater to hear about the furlough plan and ask questions. (Photo by Guy Lasnier)

Campus leaders on Thursday held a forum at the Media Theater for staff members to hear information and ask questions about the furlough/salary reduction plan.

The forum was the first of two town hall-style meetings for campus employees. Another forum for academic personnel will be 2-3:30 p.m. July 31 in the Media Theater.

Chancellor George Blumenthal began by acknowledging the severity of the state's withdrawal of support for UC.

"Despite our many challenges, we will do everything we can to ensure we do not abandon our fundamental principles as an institution," he said.

Then he outlined the issue: An epic state budget shortfall has prompted deep and painful cuts to the University of California.

UC has responded by increasing student fees, approving the furlough plan for faculty and staff, requiring campuses to make cuts, and refinancing debt.

"With these cuts, UCSC's operating budget will have declined by more than $50 million since last year," Blumenthal said, adding that that works out to more than $3,000 per student.

As a result of the campus cuts, UCSC has had staff layoffs, has not filled vacant faculty positions, and will not be building a planned data center on campus, said Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Dave Kliger, offering a few examples of the budget meltdown's repercussions on the campus.

A few other facts about the furlough/salary reduction plan Read more »

Under the plan, staff pay will be cut on a graduated scale according to salary band, with reductions beginning at 4 percent for those earning $40,000 and under and going up to 10 percent for those earning more than $240,000. In compensation for the pay cuts, staff will receive furlough days in numbers corresponding to their pay cut percentage--for example, a worker making $50,000 will have 16 furlough days, or a pay cut of 6 percent.

Academic personnel also had a chance to ask questions in a separate forum on the budget and the furlough/pay cut plan Read more »

Furlough day amounts begin at 11 (corresponding to 4 percent) and go up to 26 (corresponding to 10 percent). However, upper management will only be granted 10 furlough days, regardless of the amount of their pay cut.

UCSC officials tried to persuade administrators at the Office of the President that staff paid below a certain amount should not receive any pay cut, said Kliger, but were unsuccessful.

Staff were given time to ask questions regarding the furlough plan (see below).

The forum was informative, said staff member Andy Klein, a sales manager for TAPS.

"I'm not happy about it," he said after the meeting, referring to the furlough plan. "But I am happy to have a job."

The presentation was good, agreed Bruce Horn, a media computing system analyst administrator with the Instructional Technology Group, though he added, "it wasn't what I wanted to hear."

His wife, Robin Horn, is also a UCSC staff member. She works part time in the publications department for UCO Lick Observatory.

"This is tough for families that have both adults working at the University of California," she said.

They haven't yet made plans for how to cope with their reduced income, she said. They were close to buying a house, but now they may not be able to.

Calling the present moment "an extraordinary time," Chancellor Blumenthal acknowledged the impact the state's fiscal crisis is having on UC staff.

"It is very difficult for you and your families. We know that. That's why we appreciate your efforts that much more," Blumenthal said. "Working together, we will get through this."

Questions asked by staff members at Thursday's forum on furloughs included:

How will the plan work for part-time employees?

Part-time employees will be evaluated based on the amount they would make if they were 100 percent time, said Willeen McQuitta, assistant vice chancellor, Staff Human Resources. For example, an employee who works at 60 percent time and makes $60,000 would be evaluated at his or her full-time pay rate of $100,000 and would thus fall into salary band 5, with 21 furlough days, or an 8 percent pay cut. That employee would need to take 60 percent of the 21 days, or 12.6 days.

Can some employees be required to work through their furlough days?

Furlough days are to be treated like vacation days, according to Blumenthal. Once you've worked out which days to take on furlough, you don't have to work those days, he said.

What is the probability the plan will extend for longer than one year?

"I wish I could tell you this is only for one year, but I'm not an optimist when it comes to the state budget," said Blumenthal. However, he added, extending the furlough plan would require consultation with faculty and staff, as well as full Regental approval to be renewed.

Kliger cautioned that the cuts this year to the University of California were somewhat mitigated by federal stimulus funds, and things could get worse if those funds are not received next year.

"We really have to spend this year thinking about how we would deal with a worst-case scenario next year," Kliger said.

My unit will have a combined 1,300 days of staff furlough time. How can we get our work done?

"We can't just say we're going to take the furlough days but just squeeze in all our work," said Kliger. "We have to think about what we can stop doing."

That's going to make things harder for everyone, but "I don't know what the alternative is," he said.

Will there still be layoffs of nonrepresented employees? If so, when will we know?

Yes, according to Kliger.

"The savings will not be enough to avoid further layoffs," he said.

He was not sure when officials would know further details about potential layoffs.

Eventually we're going to recover. Will we simply re-establish funding in exactly the reverse of the way it was cut?

"Absolutely not the reverse," said Kliger. "If you look at long-term funding by the state, it never recovers by the same amount it was cut."

Because of that, "we're going to have to think about the most critical ways to reinvest the funds that come back," he said.

How are faculty participating in the reduction plan? I saw something about them receiving merit increases.

Faculty are participating in the plan, and their percentage reductions are the same, said Kliger. They are getting merit increases, he added.

You mentioned that there might be some flexibility in furlough days. Has it been decided how people will take furlough days, or is it still up in the air?

"It's half up in the air," said Blumenthal.

Campus leadership is trying to decide whether to have a fraction of furlough days be mandatory by imposing a campus closure similar to the one done during the December holiday period.

They must decide on that by September 1, said Kliger. So they will propose some options for staff consideration and feedback.

For streaming audio and video of the forum, as well as the latest budget information, visit the Budget Update center.