Furloughing workers and delaying paychecks are among the things the University of Idaho is considering in the wake of a statewide budget crunch.
University of Idaho President Robert Hoover outlined Monday four possible cuts.
Hoover said the university is trying to limit the impact of the state “holdback” on students. Most of the changes primarily would affect university faculty and staff members, although one proposal would curtail student part-time jobs.
“None of these are easy,” said Hoover, especially coupled with an unexpected 5 percent decline in UI enrollment this year, which reduces tuition revenue.
“Our operating budgets are already at the point where it makes it difficult for the departments to operate,” he said.
Two weeks ago, Gov. Phil Batt ordered a 2.5 percent across-the-board “holdback” in state spending, totaling about $35 million. As UI’s share, the school must trim nearly $2.3 million from the $91 million in state money it expected to spend this year.
“You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out the human impact of that,” said Hoover. “It is difficult to keep up a good morale.”
If the state’s economic picture improves, the state may release the money - or part of it - for the school to spend as originally planned. But a similar holdback last year became permanent, costing the school the $1.6 million it had trimmed.
Hoover said Monday that the school likely will take $500,000 out of its $1.5 million medical insurance fund. The university is self-insured for medical costs, setting aside the fund in case a worker needs complicated and expensive health care. By doing so, the university essentially is betting that it won’t have any catastrophic health crises between now and next July.
“The odds of you having more than one (case) in one year are long, but it does happen,” said Hoover.
For the remaining $1.8 million, he said, UI has three choices:
Furlough all university employees for 10 days, probably over the Christmas and Easter holidays.
Delay paychecks by two weeks. This would bring the university in line with the rest of the state agencies, which have a two-week lag time between the work period and a paycheck. Workers still would get paid for all their work, but the lag time would push two weeks’ worth of payroll into the next fiscal year, thus “trimming” it off this year’s.
A similar proposal last year caused an angry stir among UI staffers.
Order across-the-board cuts for all departments. This option most affects students, Hoover said, by drying up part-time student jobs helping out in various departments, and by curtailing some spring classes.
“The student help is usually the first thing that gets cut,” he said. The proposal also would cut deeply into general expenses such as phone use and copy machines, he said.
The school will make a final decision on which cut to make in about two weeks, Hoover said.