June 28, 2011 - Plan to Avoid Mandatory Staff Furloughs

Update from Les

When we last published a budget update, we were analyzing the budget passed by the legislature and proposing a set of budget reductions and other adjustments in response to that budget.  The plans that the Vice Presidents and I described at the forum on June 6 sought to preserve the student experience as much as possible, protect jobs, and prepare the campus for the possibility of further reductions in state support over the next two years.

One of the major questions unresolved at that time was how to implement the 3% reduction in compensation required by the legislative budget.  At that time, we calculated that a 3% reduction in compensation would be the equivalent of 7.8 days of leave with out pay.  We recognized that, given collective bargaining agreements and the nature of the work that some groups of employees perform, a mandatory furlough plan would not be workable for many groups of employees and would represent a real hardship for others.  Although no solution would be painless, we wanted to arrive at a solution that would be fair and equitable. 

In the end, the proposal we have developed, subject to review and approval by the Board of Trustees, will affect all staff and faculty to some degree, but avoids the need for mandatory staff furloughs or temporary layoffs, at least for the first year of the biennium.  We will use the more than $90,000 saved through the voluntary leave without pay program to offset some of the required staff compensation cuts in the 2011-12 fiscal year.  In addition, we will depend on careful management of staff turnover, continued attention to controlled spending, and continued staff participation in a voluntary leave without pay program.  Each is critical for us to avoid the necessity of mandatory furloughs or temporary layoffs. 

We will need to closely manage hiring and spending, as outlined in the “soft freeze” plan that John Hurley previously distributed.  We will need to closely monitor these efforts over the course of the year to ensure that we achieve the 3% reduction in compensation. We have a tentative agreement with the United Faculty of Evergreen to maintain the current salary grid for the coming biennium.  Savings in faculty compensation will be accomplished through a combination of measures to improve the realized student/faculty ratio as we work to meet our decision to re-base our budget to a higher student FTE target level.  We value the work of both faculty and staff as they work together in making the Evergreen mission a reality. 

We are hopeful that these measures will minimize impacts to working conditions and wages for both faculty and staff.   Nevertheless, we will all feel the effects of this plan in one way or another.  The plan affects staffing and workload for both faculty and staff.  We believe that the effects are equitably distributed, and with careful management and some voluntary efforts, mandatory furloughs and temporary layoffs can be avoided, at least for the 2011-12 fiscal year. 

I expect that the poor state economy will continue to present major challenges for us over the next few years.  If conditions deteriorate or if we are not meeting our savings goals, we may need to re-consider implementing some non-voluntary furlough or leave without pay actions later in the year.

It is too soon to know how best to manage the second year of the biennium. When we know the outcome of collective bargaining and likely further legislative action, we will be in a better position to make plans for 2012-13.  Although we are hopeful that we can implement a similar program in 2012-13 as we are considering for next year there are three questions that need to be answered before we can finalize that decision.

•    What, if any, additional budget reductions will be required due to state revenue collection shortfalls?
•    How well did our 2011-12 compensation reduction strategy outlined above work – or not?
•    What, if any, clarifying language develops regarding compensation base reductions for various employee groups?

Again, thanks to everyone for your contributions to our continued success in providing students with a truly unique learning experience. 

Les Purce