SIUC Furloughs Unfortunate But Necessary
I realize this probably isn’t a popular point of view in Carbondale, but furloughs are a necessary response to over-staffing. There are 3.59 students for every SIUC employee. In contrast, at SIUE, there are 5.81 students for each employee and SIUE doesn’t plan to use furloughs.
It is unfortunate that it has come to this. Total SIUC employment shrank between 2001 and 2003. If those reductions hadn’t been erased by subsequent employment growth, furloughs might not have been necessary. Furloughs probably could have been avoided if enrollment had grown steadily over the last ten years. Instead, enrollment dwindled while employment grew.
Even after the 4 percent cuts instituted earlier this semester, SIUC faces an FY11 budget gap of $2.5 million. Payroll is around $550,000 per day. Without cuts in labor costs, SIUC is not going to be able to fill the hole in the budget. We aren’t alone in this – even the mighty UIUC had to implement furlough days.
Some of the campus unions see the writing on the wall and have agreed to furloughs. Others are resisting the plan – some saying their employees “won’t make enough to live” if furloughs are implemented. It seems to me that the cost of layoffs are higher than the cost of furlough days.
The chickens have come home to roost at SIUC. The university can no longer allow employment to grow while enrollment shrinks. Furloughs are necessary to fill this year’s budget shortage. The hiring freeze must remain in place. If enrollment continues to slide, layoffs may be necessary.
Layoffs at SIUC are bad for Carbondale. SIUC is our biggest employer, and wages earned there are spent at local establishments, generating tax revenues and additional jobs. But the overall health of the institution is more important for Carbondale than short term employment trends.
For its own health, SIUC has to get its fiscal house in order. Furloughs address the acute budget crisis. Addressing enrollment decline and over-staffing are necessary future steps.
Comments are welcome.