Many state offices will be closed on Fridays, shifting state workers to a four-day work week beginning in August.
The move was announced today by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. as a way to cut energy costs by 20 percent.
Huntsman said his new "Working 4 Utah" initiative will also provide better customer service to Utahns because the agencies affected will have longer hours from Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"This will be a very good thing for the state," the governor told reporters during the taping of his monthly news conference on KUED Ch. 7, where he unveiled the details of the program.
Huntsman said Utah will be the first state government in the country to adopt a schedule of four 10-hour work days, already in place in a number of local governments. The schedule only affects executive branch employees, not those working for state courts or the Legislature.
He said some state agencies will be exempted from the new schedule, such as corrections and human services. But as many as 1,000 buildings throughout the state could be shifted to the four-day work week on Aug. 1.
The projected energy savings are based on an analysis of six state buildings, including the massive office tower behind the state Capitol, according to Kim Hood, head of of the Department of Administrative Services.
Hood said just shutting those six buildings down an extra day every week would shave $123,000 from the state's energy bills. She said she has not yet calculated the overall savings to the state, but it is expected to be in the millions.
About 23,000 state workers will be affected by the change and Huntsman predicted about 10 percent will have difficulties making child-care, transportation and other arrangements needed to accommodate working four, 10-hour days rather than five, eight-hour days.
The governor said one of his biggest concerns is making sure Utahns know how much can be accomplished online, including purchasing fishing and hunting licenses or renewing drivers' licenses.Huntsman said he does not expect there to be any cost associated with initiating what will be a one-year pilot program. He said he will handle the change by executive order and no action from lawmakers is needed.
E-mail: [email protected]