The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Furlough Follies Continue

with one comment

Last week I was critical of the Faculty Association’s white paper because the authors repeatedly referred to late payments from the state. It seemed to me that either they didn’t understand the difference between a cash flow crisis and a budget crisis, or they were deliberately trying to mislead. Last Friday, SIU President Glenn Poshard released a statement to clear up any confusion:

A cash flow crisis is created when an inordinate delay takes place in payments from the state for our operating funds out of which we make payroll.  A budget crisis may develop by an actual cut-back of state funding from the previous year, resulting in an unbalanced budget. It is a completely separate issue from the cash flow problem altogether.

Now let us turn to FY11.  On July 1, SIU’s state appropriation was signed into law at a level 7% lower than the previous year.  This amount represents approximately what the university received in 1999.  For the Carbondale campus, the loss of federal stimulus funds which comprised 7% of our state reimbursement in FY10, the elimination of millions of dollars in state reimbursements to SIUC this fiscal year for mandated entitlements of free tuition and fees to veterans, a further delay in MAP funding for FY11, as well as unaddressed enrollment shortfalls from this and previous years has contributed to an unbalanced operating budget totaling more than $15 million.  We have no authority, nor will we, to borrow against budget shortfalls.

I hope future communications from the Faculty Association or any of the other Foolish Five unions will at least acknowledge that SIUC faces a budget crisis, not a cash flow crisis. I also hope that the Foolish Five will stop saying the university should borrow to fill the gap.

Last week, I also gave the Foolish Five credit for drawing attention to the fact that lower paid employees are taking the same number of furlough days that higher paid employees are taking. Looks like Poshard is trying to defang that criticism:

Some have questioned whether the President’s Office will also share in this endeavor.  The Board of Trustees authorized up to 6 days of unpaid leave and I will take the maximum days. Our Vice Presidents will take 5 days and our remaining employees will take 4 days with the rest of the university. (Emphasis added.)

Chancellor Cheng should follow Poshard’s lead and take six furlough days herself. Upper level administrators in the Chancellor’s Office should take at least five.

Last week it looked like the Foolish Five had scored a short term victory. When the Chancellor sent the email announcing furloughs, she wrote that it only applied to those bargaining units whose unions had agreed. There was no mention of what would happen to members of the bargaining units who hadn’t agreed.

At least one of the Foolish Five unions sent an email to its members claiming they would be paid for the first closure day. The Chancellor sent an email yesterday explaining that employees represented by the Foolish Five will be required to work during the first furlough day:

The UAC policy does not authorize the University to pay employees if they are not working or in an approved leave status.  The University will be partially closed on November 24th for public business, however, ALL employees who are members of bargaining units that have not yet reached an agreement with the University regarding Unpaid Administrative Closures will be required to report to work for their regularly assigned shift or submit a vacation request for supervisor approval. (Emphasis in original.)

This is a necessary move. If members of the Foolish Five unions were given a paid day off, while unrepresented employees and members of other unions take unpaid days, it would be a reward to those who refuse to accept budgetary reality.

I’ll continue to follow this.

Comments are welcome.


One Response

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  1. […] been posting about the upcoming furloughs all week. Initially, I was critical of five SIUC unions that have refused to cooperate with furloughs. I dubbed them the Foolish Five. As more information […]

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