Budget-reduction ideas continue to flow

Thoughts, suggestions, rumors and questions continue to flow into the president’s budget web site, where NAU colleagues are addressing the impending reduction to the university’s FY09 budget.

Faculty and staff have submitted numerous ideas, and frequent topics include reducing NAU’s energy bill through a four-day workweek, outsourcing some university services, instituting employee furloughs and becoming a paperless campus.

President John Haeger has been reading the input and mulling the suggestions as he and campus leadership prepare to tackle the upcoming reduction, which likely will be considerably more in FY09 than was previously thought before the holiday break. The cut may be announced any time within the next week.

While all ideas and areas are open for discussion, the president already has addressed some. Haeger has instituted a hiring freeze, postponing several searches across campus. He also has directed that all university travel and purchases be reduced.

However, it is unlikely the university will institute a four-day workweek. It is believed that a four-day workweek would reduce student services while saving little, if any, utility costs.

The steam heat in most buildings prevents the university from easily reducing the temperature. The staffing needed to adjust the heat for short periods of time would cost far more than the utilities. Electricity savings, however, could be realized by turning off lights and computers when not needed.

Another frequent suggestion has been furloughs for faculty and staff, a practice adopted by many cities and institutions. The president is considering this suggestion, though no final decision has been made.

A furlough for all NAU state employees could save the university as much as $500,000 per furlough day.

Reducing paper on campus is another recurring suggestion. Campus leadership has not mandated any decreases to paper usage; however, departments are urged to save funds wherever possible, which would include the use of paper.

Haeger said he is approaching all suggestions involving personnel-such as outsourcing-with extreme caution, since once a decision to outsource is made, it is difficult, if not impossible, to return once the budget stabilizes again.

The budget web site will continue to post questions, suggestions and rumors. E-mail submissions to budgetinfo@nau.edu.