Wright State University administrators are developing a policy that would allow them to furlough employees if the school’s finances do not improve.
The Dayton Daily News obtained an email from Wright State’s human resources department sent to employees on Wednesday that said a policy has been drafted and could be implemented this spring but that the policy has not been vetted yet.
Furloughs are considered either voluntary or involuntary temporary leaves of absence during which employees are not paid.
“Our goal is to begin these steps after the New Year and any decisions would not occur until after the vetting and Wright State policy approval processes are complete,” Shari Mickey-Boggs, WSU associate vice president for human resources said in the email.
Wright State slashed $30.8 million from its fiscal year 2018 budget in June in an attempt to begin correcting years of overspending. The university is aiming to boost its reserve fund by $6 million this year. To do that, the university needs to carve out an additional $10.5 million of its budget because of enrollment issues and additional scholarship and fellowship costs.
WSU officials have said they plan to make up the difference through savings in summer classes and operations, “discretionary spending” and leaving positions vacant.
The university began considering a furlough policy after the board of trustees asked administrators to identify options if the budget is not met, according to the email. No furlough policy existed prior to the request, said Provost Tom Sudkamp.
The possibility of furloughs is the “only new thing” the administration is considering as a cost saving measure right now, but Sudkamp said he doesn’t anticipate furloughs having to be used at this point. He said he was not sure how furloughs would work for faculty but that the human resources department is looking at the best practices available.
“We are very concerned about the employee morale and that’s why we want to make it known that this is just creating a policy,” Sudkamp said.
The announcement took WSU faculty union president Martin Kich by surprise. Kich hadn’t yet heard about the potential furlough policy when reached by phone on Wednesday.
The Wright State Association of American University Professors is currently negotiating a new contract with WSU administrators.
“It kind of takes me by surprise I guess to some extent,” Kich said. “I don’t know how they would furlough faculty. You know if they were going to furlough faculty it would probably be a cut.”
The development of a furlough policy comes even as Wright State officials have said the school could narrowly avoid state fiscal watch if the school doesn’t overspend again this year.
The financial health of public colleges is measured by something called a “Senate Bill 6 score,” after a piece of legislation passed in 1997. The law requires the Ohio Department of Higher education to rate schools on a scale of 0 to 5 every year.
The formula takes into account measures such as each school’s revenue, debt and reserves. If a school falls below 1.75 on this scale for two years, it lands on fiscal watch, putting it under tight state monitoring and requiring a state-approved plan to balance its books.
Wright State projects its score will be a .8 this year, meaning one more year below a 1.75 would put the school on fiscal watch. But, last month WSU financial officials said that if the university does boost reserves by $6 million this year then the school’s next score would be slightly above a 1.75.