Thursday, May 17, 2007

It Only Hurts When I Think

A while back, I did a piece on Dilbert budgeting. It's getting worse.

The administrative assistant for a fairly high-traffic department quit. In former times, we would hire a temp for a few weeks while we did a search for a new full-time assistant. We would pay the temp from the budget line that we had set aside to pay the full-timer's salary. So instead of paying person A, we'd use (pretty much) the same amount to pay person B, until we hired person C, who would also get pretty close to the same amount.

That was too close to rational.

Now, to save money, the college has decided to impound sixty days' salary whenever somebody leaves. The idea is that most positions can go unfilled for a short time, and the net impact will be equivalent to a couple of layoffs, but nobody gets laid off.


The flaw in the theory, of course, is that most positions can't sit vacant for two months. If they could, I'd wonder why we have them at all. (The theory was also based on the assumption that attrition only occurs through retirement, and retirements typically involve months of advance notice, for benefits purposes. Of course, some people just up and quit.)

Certainly this position can't go unfilled for very long. Most faculty high-tail it out of Dodge once they've turned in grades, and this is a pretty high-traffic department with some students who badly need individual attention.

So the solution worked out with the budget director is...

drum roll, please...

find money in the corners of other accounts to pay for the temp for the next two months, to make up for the money being sucked into the void from the original salary line. We're looking at leftovers in telephone allocations, photocopying, subscriptions, and the like.

The punchline is that the cost of the temp is actually higher than the cost of the full-timer being replaced, since temps come with temp agency fees. (Adjuncts are the only temps on whom we actually save money.)

This, in the name of saving money.

Your tax dollars at work!

What's the dumbest or most self-defeating 'money saving' move you've seen?