Today has brought a metric boatload of cheery news from North Carolina state officials. This morning, the state announced that state workers, including teachers and higher education employees, would have 1/2 percent of their total annual pay cut from their May and June paychecks. That works out to each of those monthly checks being cut by 3 percent. In return, the employees would get an extra 10 hours off from work sometime between June 1 and the end of the calendar year.
While a 10-hour mandatory furlough beats a several month layoff, it's hardly good news. Moreover, there's no guarantee that 10 hours will be the total extent of the cut. The proposed furlough is needed to close a funding gap for the current fiscal year, but the next year isn't looking any rosier.
The furlough is also somewhat self-defeating. The furlough is applied across the board, which means that employees who bring in revenue through grants and other activities can't bill those sources for their time (most grants require you to bill for a proportion of your total time, not specific hours of time). There's no savings to the state from those "billable" employees. Worse, the state can't collect its usual administrative expenses, so it actually some money on the deal. For UNCG employees, the extra administrative charge (indirect cost rate) is just under 40 cents for each dollar billed.
To further brighten the day, the state health director announced this afternoon that swine flu is suspected in the state and that his department has ordered isolation for people who are sick.
You can never tell how these things will work out, but the plan for now is to save the upcoming furlough hours and isolation time for next Fall's faculty meetings.