By LAURA GURFEIN
WASHINGTON (Sept. 28, 2009)—Higher paid employees at University System of Maryland schools are required to take more furlough days to lessen the burden on their lower paid counterparts, according to several university furlough plans released this week.
Due to a $454 million gap in Maryland's fiscal year 2010 budget, Gov. Martin O'Malley instructed the system to return $26 million through furloughs and temporary salary reductions. A resolution authorizing individual universities to implement furlough plans for the current academic year was passed at the Board of Regents meeting Sept. 18.
Universities are in the process of finalizing their plans, which must receive approval from USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan and must be shared with campus communities before taking effect. Plans will be implemented as early as Saturday.
Maryland's Board of Revenue Estimates reported this month that an additional $300 million may still need to be trimmed from this year's budget. Its effect on state universities is not yet known.
Most universities whose plans have been finalized have similar provisions. The number of days an employee is furloughed, for example, correlates directly to annual salary.
At Frostburg University, the campus will shut down for two days during winter break and all five days of spring break, effectively furloughing all employees for seven days. However, since employees earning $25,000 or less annually are only required to take one furlough day during the academic year under Frostburg's plan, their pay will be reduced accordingly.
On the other end, employees earning more than $100,000 annually are required to take 10 furlough days this academic year. In addition to the seven campus closure days, those employees must also take three additional salary reduction or administrative leave days.
Additional days are scheduled at the employee's convenience, with supervisor approval, and must not be consecutive days, according to Frostburg's plan.
While other universities have plans that are similar to Frostburg's tiered salary structure, the corresponding number of furlough days differs from school to school, with some lower-paid employees taking more furlough days at some schools.
At Salisbury University, employees earning less than $50,000 annually, as well as part-time employees earning more than $20,000 per semester, will be furloughed for three days. Those earning more than $120,000 annually will be furloughed for 10 days.
Although three furlough days for lower paid employees is a more extreme measure than other universities are taking, Salisbury's Human Resources Director Marvin Pyles insisted it was necessary.
"We don't have the luxury of College Park or Towson that have a lot of higher paid employees," Pyles said. "If we give zero or one (furlough) day to lower paid employees, then we'd have to give five more days to higher paid employees.
"We can't pull it all out of employees making over $100,000. Otherwise, their salary would be cut in half," he said.
The University of Maryland, College Park will furlough employees for 10 days whose yearly salaries top $200,000, while those earning $30,000 or less will only be furloughed for one day.
Salisbury's campus will close for three days during winter break and all five days of spring break, although one day is designated as a holiday. Employees requiring fewer than seven furlough days will follow procedures similar to Frostburg's.
The various plans are also similar in that they spread out the temporary salary reduction from furlough days over several pay periods, lessening the impact of salary loss in a given pay period.
Bowie State University, Coppin State University and the University of Baltimore had not finalized their furlough plans.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.