Georgia Athletic Association administrators and employees were breathing a sigh of relief Thursday after state house and senate leaders approved a budget that will not require mandatory furloughs.
The state approved a $26 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2021, which begins Wednesday. That includes $2.2 billion in cuts in anticipation of revenue declines because of the coronavirus pandemic. But that’s actually much better than expected.
At one point, state leaders were suggesting a 14% furlough rate for state employees. Gov. Brian Kemp recently reduced that figure to 10%, but that still would require more than two weeks of unpaid leave for Georgia’s higher-paid employees, including football coach Kirby Smart and men’s basketball coach Tom Crean.
“That’s why we don’t panic and do things until something becomes official,” UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity said Thursday. “We were just waiting to see what the state government said.”
McGarity told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier Thursday that the school’s privately funded athletic department would participate in any furlough actions that might be required of the university by the University System of Georgia. The Board of Regents, which oversees the USG, still could suggest furloughs in order to meet tighter budgets.
The regents introduced a 10% furlough model in May that has been circulating through state agencies. It calls for a five-tiered approach that includes 16-day unpaid for employees that earn $154,000 or more in base salary and decreases down to zero days for those earning less than $33,475.
In that scenario, Smart and most of Georgia's coaches in all sports would be required not to work for 16 days. The athletic association has about 300 full-time employees.
“What we all have to remember is we’re all part of the university,” McGarity said. “We’re structured differently, of course, but the majority of our staff is enrolled in the teacher’s retirement system and in the university’s insurance program. So while we don’t receive any state funds, we are part of the university as far as the benefits plan.”