The Nevada Board of Regents will discuss Friday whether it will change the Nevada System of High Education code to authorize furloughs in response to the COVID-19 emergency budget shortfall. If implemented, the furloughs would include athletic staff members, excepting any classified employees who are under the jurisdiction of the Legislature.
Friday's vote will not automatically implement furloughs but would rather open that potential for the 2021 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
"These amendments will permit the Board to authorize NSHE institutions and/or System Administration to implement one or more furlough days during the 2021 fiscal year for all academic and administrative faculty pursuant to a directive from either the Office of the Governor or Nevada Legislature, and without the declaration of financial exigency," the Board of Regents' special meeting minutes read. "The amendments also establish protocols for employees receiving notice of a furlough decision and a procedure for limited reconsideration"
In April, the governor's Office of Finance made an emergency request that the Board of Regents, among others, submit alternative plans to achieve up to 6 percent, 10 percent and 14 percent budget cuts for fiscal year 2021. The requested cuts were directly related to significant anticipated budget shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"On April 10, 2020, and in response to the request from the Governor’s Office of Finance, the Board of Regents held an emergency Special Meeting, where the Board approved the submittal of plans that, among other budget cuts, included the possibility of either a one-half ( 1/2) furlough day per month or a one (1) furlough day per month for non-classified academic and administrative faculty, as an across-the-board emergency salary savings measure," the Regents agenda reads. "Implementation of furloughs was discussed as a means to avoid the possibility of future faculty layoffs or other salary reductions. The current provisions of the NSHE Code that govern furloughs were drafted over a decade ago and were tailored to respond to the Great Recession. More specifically, they were premised upon action by the Nevada Legislature, not the Office of the Governor. Moreover, they included options involving faculty layoffs and salary reductions, in addition to furloughs, and were largely contingent upon the Board declaring a ‘fiscal emergency.’
"Unlike the Great Recession, the fiscal emergency that the Board of Regents, along with all other State entities, currently confronts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has emerged rapidly and with little advanced warning. Contracts for academic and administrative faculty renew and become effective for fiscal year 2021 on July 1, 2020. The NSHE Code is incorporated into every employee contract. Accordingly, a need for immediate action by the Board to comply with gubernatorial directives, and to mitigate a possible greater budget shortfall in the future, has emerged which requires amendment to current Code provisions to allow the possibility of furloughs being required of faculty during the 2021 fiscal year."
In April, Boise State furloughed its staff, including coaches and athletics, after facing a $10 million shortfall. That included full-time employees making more than $150,000 per year being required to take 10-day furloughs between May 3 and July 31. For football coach Bryan Harsin, who makes $1.65 million in base salary, that was a $63,000 cut. Earlier this month, UNLV's athletic department made a 15 percent cut to its 2020-21 operating budget, resulting in an expected savings of $1.7 million.
The authorization to impose furloughs next fiscal year is expected to pass Friday.
"While there may be debate on what furlough policy should ultimately be enacted by the Board, no reasonable arguments have been identified as to why these Code amendments should not be approved," the Board of Regents' briefing paper reads.