Furloughs not in sight for UI this year

With the University of Illinois on "firmer financial footing" than in recent years, faculty and staff should not anticipate any mandatory furlough days in the next academic year.

UI President Bob Easter has asked his staff to remove language in employees' annual notices of appointments — a document outlining a person's job title and salary — that states that the university could require the employee to take unpaid furlough days.

"There's no question the university is on a firmer financial footing now than it was in 2009. Everybody's generally recovering from that financial fiscal crisis, including the university," UI spokesman Tom Hardy said.

The furlough policy has been in effect since 2010, when many employees were required to take the unpaid days. At the time, the university was facing cash-flow problems, and it was not clear if it could make payroll because of late state payments.

The UI started to explore the possibility of furloughs in 2009, under then-President B. Joseph White. At the time, there wasn't a policy. After he resigned, it was interim President Stan Ikenberry who enacted the new policy in early 2010. It was only during the first part of that year that furloughs were actually instituted.

"It wasn't a popular decision, but it was one that university leadership felt was necessary given those circumstances," Hardy said.

Employees earning over $30,000 annually were required to take four days. Certain administrators had to take 10 days. Civil-service employees and employees whose funding came from contracts or other outside sources were exempt.

The university saved an estimated $17 million to $20 million from the furloughs that year. With more students enrolled in recent years, tuition income is up and the campus underwent a "stewarding excellence" review to identify various cost savings in operations around campus, Hardy said.

The state has yet to pay the UI about $304 million of its appropriation for the current fiscal year, but Hardy pointed out that administrators now have a better sense of when the state will make its payments.

Notices of appointment are typically sent out in August. The language will be dropped as soon as the president's office, human resources and legal personnel make the changes, he said.

The removal of the language does not mean that the university might need to again require furloughs in the future.

"Hopefully, that wouldn't be the case," Hardy said.

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