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University of Idaho president calls for employee furloughs

The mandatory furloughs could trim $3.3 million from next year's budget.
Credit: KTVB
University of Idaho campus

BOISE, Idaho — The financial impacts of battling COVID-19 are being felt across Idaho college campuses. Boise State University and Idaho State University already announced cost-cutting plans that include furloughs to address impacts to their budgets.

On Monday, University of Idaho President C. Scott Green sent out a memo to faculty and staff that calls for mandatory employee furloughs. The plan could trim about $3.3 million from the university’s budget.

Gov. Brad Little has issued an order for all state agencies, including public and higher education, to prepare for a 5 percent general fund budget cut in Fiscal Year 2020-2021 as a result of COVID-19. That amounts to $4.7 million for the University of Idaho. The furlough plan still falls short of that total.

Green says efforts are also being made to weigh any hiring, delay start dates and watch for cost savings through open positions. And although the U of I will get federal money from the CARES Act for operations, officials expect the pandemic will impact the university’s reserve balance.

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Green says the university hopes to implement a furlough system designed with two primary objectives:

  • If each of us takes a piece of this burden, we can save jobs and tackle the problem together.
  • Employees on the higher end of the pay scale will take the biggest portion of the burden.

Furloughs will be prorated based on salary. Every employee must take 24 hours of furlough. 

Salaries over $40,352: Employees in this range will take the 24 hours of furlough as well as additional furlough hours based on a sliding scale that is equivalent to 0.25% to about 2.2% of their annual salary.

Salaries over $90,000: Employees making more than $90,000 will take 24 hours of furlough, additional hours based on the sliding scale and further furlough hours equal to 1% of their annual salary.

Furlough must be taken between June 28, 2020, and Jan. 23, 2021. That gives employees nearly seven months to take their furlough days.

Details of the plan will be finalized after the school considers input from faculty and staff.

The budget cuts could be much worse with a decrease in fall enrollment.

"We are hopeful but uncertain about enrollment this fall," Green wrote. 

He said faculty, staff and alumni are all working hard to reach out to returning and potential students. But they won’t know until fall how those efforts will play out. 

"We don’t know how or when this pandemic will end," Green said. "We need to remain vigilant to protect the hard budgetary work we have already done. There will be better days ahead and we will come out of this Vandal Strong."

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