State News

N.C. officials debate furloughs for state workers

Posted March 24, 2009

— The University of North Carolina system will have to cut as many as 500 jobs if Gov. Beverly Perdue's budget proposal became law, UNC President Erskine Bowles said Tuesday.

Bowles told the Senate budget-writing committee that $192 million in system cuts suggested by Perdue would harm the quality of education on UNC's 16 campuses, and he urged lawmakers to consider giving campuses the ability to furlough workers to save money.

State Treasurer Janet Cowell Lawmakers hear pros, cons of furloughs

Furloughs could save UNC $8 million a day, he said, and managers could schedule them at times when productivity wouldn't be affected.

"We can furlough on Friday afternoon. We can furlough right before a holiday, where your productivity is not as high as it should be anyway," he said.

Perdue didn't propose furloughs to manage the state budget gap, saying they would hurt the state's reputation as it recruits business.

Officials with the State Employees Association of North Carolina also oppose the idea of furloughs, arguing that a recession isn't the right time to send people home without pay. The need for state services goes up in a down economy, the association said.

Still, many state workers said they would gladly take some unpaid days to keep their jobs.

"I would take a few days of furlough rather than see my co-workers or myself, honestly, unemployed," said Gayle Robinson, who works at the state Department of Insurance.

Some lawmakers also said they prefer furloughs to laying off state workers. A bill pending in the House would enable the governor, the state Supreme Court chief justice and legislative leaders to furlough workers in an emergency.

"I understand there are a lot of people who have an objection to it, but it's either that or you don't have a job," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham.

Lawmakers said it's still early in the budget process, so many decisions need to be made before furloughs are considered. They remain a prominent part of the money-saving conversation, however.

"I don't think you should take away that tool in the box," Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight said.

"If we have to go this route, I think we should do this as painless as we can and try to make sure that the employees that we're looking at have something in return," said Sen. A.B. Swindell, D-Nash.

Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, said any law allowing furloughs needs to be tailored to emergencies like the projected $3.4 billion deficit the state faces in the 2009-10 fiscal year, which starts in July.

"(It can't) just be something state agencies could do at anytime whenever they want to do it," Ross said.

State Treasurer Janet Cowell advised against furloughs, however, saying they aren't a long-term solution to the state's budget problems and could wind up harming the state's financial stability.

"If you actually have to find revenue, it's better to cut programs that aren't working than to do things like furloughs, where you're not really addressing the problem," Cowell said.

The Senate will propose and pass its own budget plan before sending it to the House, which will create its own version.

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  • puddles Mar 26, 2009

    NCTeacher: my apologies, but exactly where on this site (ncpublicshools.org) can you enter the name of a specific individual teacher's name and get that person's salary? i can find a salary schedule but can not find anywhere that has a field in which i can enter an actual person's name and get how much that specific teacher earns per year. (there are several sites online that you can enter the name of every other state employee and see what that particular person makes.) could you please post the EXACT url on this site you reference? thanks, i will be very interested to have this information.

  • NCTeacher Mar 26, 2009

    Puddles-

    You most certainly can go to the State's website for schools- www.ncpublicschools.org and check on teacher salary as well.

  • puddles Mar 25, 2009

    the teachers will never be furloughed. they are also still going to get their bonuses this year ($94 million alloted for that in this fiscal year's budget). rick glazier, co-sponsor of this bill, is married to a teacher. you can check online databases and look up all state employees' salaries--except the teachers'. certainly sounds equitable to me......

  • NCTeacher Mar 25, 2009

    Reality Bites and Bendal1-

    What most people aren't realizing is that teachers are on the chopping block too. My county has already let some teacher assistants go and moved some teachers to different schools. We've also been warned that our contracts may not be renewed for next year. They can't truly furlough us because we are on salary. We aren't getting our supplies, our insurance is increasing, they are talking about freezing our pay, taking away some of our supplement and taking away longevity pay.

    And once again- we don't get a 2 month paid vacation. WE ONLY GET PAID FOR 10 MONTHS- September through June.

  • scoutmomof2 Mar 25, 2009

    Please lay me off instead of furloughing me 20 days, even spread out that would cause much more financial hardship. Give me my 30 days notice, pay me for my month plus of vacation/bonus days, my two months severance and my 2 monthes additional based on my age. In that 6 months time til I have to sign up for unemployment I can start my own minority business and contract back to the very agency (just like our other recent hires) that I left. Lose of longevity (which isn't that much), increases in insurance premiums and deductibles coupled with another year of no raise is enough. Asking us to give up another month (that is what 20 days is even spread out) will cause many of us to loose our homes and much more. Keep in mind furloughs also reduce the amount paid into the pension, the bulk of the money in there belongs to the state employees who are required to give up 6.5 percent of their salary to it.

  • Seeminglyopposed Mar 25, 2009

    Whereas some agencies has gotten rid of the Re-ups and contractors (retirees brought back) some agencies have not. They are still there (DOC) drawing a paycheck and continue to drain the system. These measures need to be monitored to make sure these things are done across the board before other measures are taken on furloughs. The people who can retire and do not just do not have a life. They stay around thinking the state can not continue to function without them until they get some terminal ill disease and get this ugly card sent to them and they slip that name tag right off the door and their job continues, by that time its to late. Take your retirement and live the remainder of your life to the fullest.

  • superman Mar 25, 2009

    Early retirement or retirement only puts the burden on the retirement system. The retirement system is already hurting because of the stock market. You folks just dont think that sometimes solving one problem just means you are creating another one.

  • catwoman1 Mar 25, 2009

    I would gladly accept a furlough if it meant keeping other state employees from being laid off. In fact, I already offered to voluntarily cut my hours so no one in my unit would be let go, but I was told I would jeopardize my position if I did. To me, that made no sense.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Mar 25, 2009

    Early retirement is one good way to achieve layoffs. Between that and vacancies, the layoffs would be manageable.

  • retired and luv it Mar 25, 2009

    I am a retired state employee thank goodness and the problem is in the WASTE not the individual employees. Sure state government could stand streamlining and useless positions cut. The problem starts and ends at the top on Jones Street. No attention is paid until our state has been mismanaged into a mess and then the same "Knights In Shining Armor" that created the mess, ride in to our rescue. If citizens really want to make a difference send this crowd of "Saviors" home such as Tony Rand, Marc Basnight, and Bev Perdue to mention a few. It is called power brokering among the elite and left to us average taxpayers to deal with. Deal with it we should by imposing TERM LIMITS!!!!

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