State agencies pinch pennies with small-scale furlough

State agencies are feeling the squeeze of of a shrinking budget, and some are using furloughs on a small scale to save a little money.

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Being on furlough is kind of like getting laid off for a day. Your employer tells you not to come to work, and you don’t get paid.

Two state agencies furloughed their non-union employees on Black Friday — the Department of Law and the Department of Administration. Alaska courts were also closed that day as a part of a cost-cutting measure announced earlier in the year.

In all, four agencies in the executive branch have approved furlough schemes. Department of Administration spokesman Andy Mills says about 520 employees are affected.

“The total number of days expected to be furloughed will total a savings of $562,600 to budgetary cost savings.”

That’s right. About a half-million dollars. That’s roughly a hundredth of a percent of the state’s estimated budget deficit ($3.5 billion). It’s small. Pennies in the proverbial bucket.

All executive branch agencies saw their budgets cut this year by anywhere from 5 to 35 percent. With that kind of fiscal belt-tightening, Mills says the furlough feels preferable to the alternative.

“Most employees that do have furlough days very much understand why the state is undertaking furlough days. And that’s going to result in savings for the agency without additional layoffs in staff.”

I ask if he did anything cool with his Black Friday furlough day.

“Extra turkey time with the family,” Mills laughs.

On one hand, furlough days are a bonafide excuse to take some extra time off around the holidays… or even days of your choosing, depending on which agency you work for. Some see that as a win.

But on the other hand, since the state employees getting furloughed are salaried (unionized employees aren’t subject to the furlough) they have fixed workloads and fewer paid work days to do their jobs.

The next court closure is the day before Christmas, and it’ll likewise be a furlough day for employees at the Departments of Law and Administration.