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Today's word on journalism

March 17, 2009

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1863-2009

"Can Seattle's oldest newspaper be successfully transformed into a child of the information age? The Northwest is a land of big dreams. With the demise of the Soviet Union, one quipster noted that Puget Sound is now home to three empires still bent on global dominion: Microsoft, and Starbuck's. If the stars align properly and with a quality product, Seattle will show the way to a new model for journalism of the written word."

--Joel Connelly, columnist, in today's final print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Editorial Comment: And when the newspapers die. . . .

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Mandatory furlough announced for all USU employees

February 3, 2009 | A mandatory furlough was announced today by Utah State University President Stan L. Albrecht for all full- and part-time university employees in an effort to stave off immediate widespread layoffs as a result of a second round of budget cuts.

Each USU employee will be required to take leave without pay for five work days during spring break, March 9-13. During that week, the university will be closed. This decision was made based on action taken late Friday by the Legislative Executive Appropriations Committee that requires an additional budget reduction for USU of approximately $5.65 million.

“With just five months left in the fiscal year, and because most of our funds for fiscal year 2009 are already committed to salaries and programmatic support, it is essential that we move quickly now that we know the magnitude of the additional holdback,” Albrecht said.

The president underscored that these additional cuts to be taken this year are on top of the 4 percent budget reduction (both one-time and ongoing) that the university has already taken as a result of actions approved last September during a special legislative session.

This furlough does not address the ongoing cuts or any new cuts that will be imposed for fiscal year 2010. Albrecht said the university will not know the magnitude of those reductions until later in the legislative session, and certainly not before the release of the fourth quarter revenue numbers that will occur the second week of February. Although imposing a mandatory furlough was a difficult decision to reach, Albrecht said the alternative of permanently laying off employees was even more untenable.

“We have tried to be particularly sensitive to the loss of jobs, which would be so devastating to individuals and their families,” Albrecht said. “I should note that as we have visited with groups of faculty and staff, a common message has been that, to the extent possible, our employees would prefer to find some way to share the pain of the reduction, rather than see large numbers of their colleagues lose their jobs.”

Albrecht emphasized that the university remains committed to minimizing the impacts on enrolled students who need to finish the current semester’s classes or complete their requirements for graduating on time.

He said the university will impose a mandatory five-day furlough across all employee groups. This action will generate approximately 60 percent of the amount required for the reduction. The remaining amount will be distributed across campus units.

“By addressing as much of this as is possible from central sources, we anticipate that the impact on other units will be modest ­ approximately 0.65 percent,” he said. “While any additional cuts are difficult, we believe these actions will allow us to meet the FY 2009 reduction without significant damage to our core programs and functions or to our students.”

Albrecht said the financial impact on employees of the five furloughed days will be spread across five monthly pay periods - March, April, May, June and July, 2009. Therefore, paychecks of all employees will be reduced by the equivalent of one day’s salary for each month over the next five months, beginning with the March paycheck. The amount will be prorated for part-time employees.

USU employs 2,995: 921 full-time faculty, 36 part-time faculty, 1,779 full-time support staff and 259 part-time staff.

In October, Albrecht announced the appointment of a six-member Budget Reduction Committee charged with developing a plan for absorbing reductions imposed by the state legislature in September. Their recommendation of one-time cuts of $6,954,909 was imposed prior to the end of December. The reduction impacted all units of the university.

In addition to the furlough, the president is asking university administrators to develop a plan for further cuts in their units. These plans will be reviewed by the existing six-member Budget Reduction Committee.

Albrecht said that despite the furlough and the budget relief that it will bring to diminishing university coffers, USU can expect difficult challenges ahead. He said he is being reassured that the governor and legislative leadership are working to find ways to lessen the ongoing reduction for fiscal year 2010 to a number below the 15 percent base decrease that has been publicly discussed.

“We will be working hard to support these efforts,” he said. “Nevertheless, we cannot assume that we are through the worst of this difficulty until we see some evidence that the economy is making a positive turn.”

Albrecht said the university will continue to look for creative ways to help address future budget challenges, including early retirement options. He announced that later in the week the university will make available a voluntary separation incentive plan that outlines a series of options that administrators can discuss with interested employees. To read the president’s complete message to university employees, click on this link:


Copyright 1997-2009 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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