Senior Vice President, Provost Provide State Budget Update

Posted: February 25, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: February 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm

By Daniel Walsch

More than 200 members of the campus community attended yesterday’s budget forum conducted by Senior Vice President Morrie Scherrens and Provost Peter Stearns. The two provided attendees with up-to-date information on current state budget deliberations as they apply to George Mason University.

Both administrators emphasized, however, that none of the information is yet settled or has been formally passed by the state legislature or approved by the governor.

“Because there is much speculation on the budget, our goal is to provide you information as we know it and try to address any questions or concerns you might have,” Stearns said.

Presently, each chamber of the state legislature has its own proposed version of the state budget. The two bodies are now at the beginning stages of attempting to meld them together.

Following this, they will vote to approve one singular version and then present it to the governor for any amendments he might wish to make. Scherrens and Stearns indicated the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia should complete their deliberations by early April.

Following are highlights of the Scherrens-Stearns presentation as divided by topic:

General Information

  • State support of Mason’s general budget has dropped from 60 percent in 2000 to slightly less than 30 percent.
  • Mason has had approximately $45 million cut from its general fund budget since the 2007-08 fiscal year.


  • The House version of the budget calls for no furloughs over the next three fiscal years, while the Senate version calls for state employees to take one furlough day in the current fiscal year which ends June 30, and three in each of the following fiscal years.
  • If a furlough day is required for the current fiscal year, classified and administrative/faculty workers will take their furlough day either May 28 or June 1. Department heads will determine the specific date for each employee.
  • Instructional and research faculty would take their furlough date during the April 25–May 9 pay period. They will be asked to take a non-teaching day. If someone teaches five days per week, then they will be called upon to take two one-half days during that same time frame.
  • Employees who provide 24/7 operations, such as Police, Facilities, Housing personnel, etc., will take their furlough date between May 23 and  June 7. Their specific furlough day will be incorporated into departmental scheduling.
  • The eight-hour furlough day will be prorated for part-time employees.
  • The furlough requirement does not apply to wage adjunct faculty and student workers.


  • It appears that all current Mason faculty and staff members will see no change to their Virginia Retirement System (VRS) or Optional Retirement System (ORP) retirement plans.
  • For employees hired after July 1, 2010, the House version will set their ORP contribution at 8 percent as compared to the current 10.4 percent. The Senate version calls for an ORP contribution of 8.9 percent.
  • Employees hired after July 1, 2010, will pay a 5 percent employee contribution to their VRS plan.
  • It is anticipated that changes to the retirement age and formula, average compensation and the retirement cost of living adjustment (COLA) will be made.

Bonuses and Deferred Compensation Match

  • Both the House and Senate call for a 3 percent bonus in December, 2011. Both Scherrens and Stearns cautioned that this is not definite.
  • Regarding deferred compensation, the House calls for a restoration of Cash Match, while the Senate calls for no Cash Match.

Scherrens and Stearns emphasized that the briefing was a snapshot and much could change in the next few weeks. They agreed to hold another budget forum in about a month, when the House and Senate versions of the budget have been reconciled.

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