University to Absorb Cost of Furlough Day

Posted: March 31, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: March 31, 2010 at 9:14 am

By Robin Herron

In a surprise announcement, Senior Vice President Morrie Scherrens told attendees at a budget forum on March 30 that rather than furlough Mason employees for one day, the university would instead absorb the $900,000 cost of the furlough and turn the funds over to the state.

Another piece of surprising news was that the 3 percent employee bonus previously discussed for FY 2012 has been proposed by the General Assembly for December 2010 instead. However, cautioned Provost Peter Stearns, who led the meeting with Scherrens, “I wouldn’t spend it yet.”

Following up on their promise to keep the university updated on budget developments, the two administrators summarized how the General Assembly session just ended had affected Mason’s budget.

Pointing out that the state’s contribution to the operating budget has declined to about 27 percent, Scherrens said the balance must come from tuition and other sources.

Already, he noted, the Board of Visitors approved an 8 percent summer tuition increase for in-state students (6 percent for out-of-state students) at their March meeting. He said to expect a similar tuition increase for the fall, probably in the 8-10 percent range.

Other points made at the meeting were

  • In the legislative session just ended, the university took a $5.6 million hit. The money will come from cuts to the equipment trust fund, eminent scholar fund and maintenance reserve; earned interest; as well as an additional $5 per out-of-state student fee that will likely be included within the overall tuition increases.
  • The employee bonus approved by the legislature specifies that the amount can be “up to 3 percent.” Mason will contribute half of the amount; Scherrens said the university should know by August 2010 what the specific amount of the bonus, if any, will be. Bonuses will go to all employees who have a satisfactory performance review.
  • The Cash Match program’s state contribution will be reduced to a maximum of $20 per month for FY 2011, returning to the $40 per month level in 2012.
  • There will no change in VRS or ORP retirement plans for current employees; new employees hired after June 30 (and faculty members who sign contracts after March 15, 2010) will have to contribute to the retirement plans.
  • No furloughs are currently slated for 2011 or 2012, and no additional cuts to individual university units are expected for FY 2011 or 2012 as of now.
  • Even with anticipated tuition increases, the university is still “quite competitive” in relation to other universities in Virginia for its overall tuition, room and board package.
  • In the latest budget round, no additional money was allocated to financial aid, and the university plans to make it “our highest priority,” Scherrens said. “We want to get the state to step up for 2012.”

In response to a question about a possible buy-out of employees nearing retirement, Linda Harber, associate vice president for human resources and payroll, noted that the option had been offered by the state several years ago, but was not being offered at this time. However, she said that HR will hold a Pre-retirement Planning Day on Friday, April 23.

Regarding financial aid, Dan Robb from Admissions informed the group that an auction event called GBAY will raise money for student scholarships. The event will be held on Thursday, April 1, at 7 p.m. in the Johnson Center Dewberry Hall.

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