The state House and Senate are both considering bills that would allow South Carolina State University to save money by furloughing employees, but the House version would give the highest-paid employees more unpaid days off.
“I don’t want those employees on the lower end of the pay scale disproportionately affected,” said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, who sponsored the House version.
S.C. State President Thomas Elzey said on Wednesday that the university could save about $900,000 if all employees took seven furlough days by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Savings from furloughs and other cuts will create a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year, he said.
Cobb-Hunter and Sen. John Matthews, D-Bowman, introduced bills on Wednesday allowing S.C. State to proceed with the requested furloughs. But the bills do it in different ways.
Under Matthews’ bill, furloughs would cover seven days.
“What we did is give the authority to do it. We’d let the president and board make the decisions,” Matthews said.
He said, “It’s better for the university to manage it.”
Cobb-Hunter’s bill states that employees with an annual salary of $50,000 or less must take a furlough for five days. The furlough must be for 15 days for employees with an annual salary of more than $50,000 under her bill.
The Orangeburg Democrat said on Friday that she plans, “to amend the bill so that employees who make $25,000 or less would only take a furlough of two to three days.”
Cobb-Hunter said S.C. State’s leaders need some direction on how to best use requested furlough days, as she doesn’t have “the same level of confidence in the president and the board that the Senate apparently does.”
She said that the restrictions in the proposed House bill, “are necessary from a cost-savings standpoint to provide some direction on areas that would allow for the most savings.”
Elzey has asked employees to voluntarily take unpaid days off in anticipation of the furlough being approved. He said they will be given credit for the days they already took off once lawmakers approve the furlough.
Matthews’ version of the bill includes provisions for employees who have voluntarily furloughed themselves. Cobb-Hunter’s version does not.
Both versions state that law enforcement employees and employees who provide direct patient or client care, and front-line employees who deliver customer services may be exempted from the mandatory furlough.
And both versions of the bill state, “under no circumstances shall the university close completely.”
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