State, Federal Financial Woes Dominate UI Trustees Meeting
By Jeff Bossert
University of Illinois President Robert Easter says the funding cut that Governor Quinn is proposing for the university would set it back to 1990's levels.
He told U of I Trustees Thursday the proposed $32.7 million reduction for next year, released Wednesday in Quinn's budget plan, would leave the university with an operatng budget of $614-million.
"In actual dollars, that takes us back to 1995 - in inflation-adjusted dollars, to 1965," he said. "Just as a simple metric, we have doubled the number of students we serve since 1965. So the state's contribution per student is very significantly reduced."
Meanwhile, U of I Chief Financial Officer Walter Knorr said the lag in state payments has reached an all-time high.
He told Trustees that figure reached $525-million last week (the previous high was $507-million in 2010) and now stands at $495-million.
But he said other areas are making finances hard to plan. Knorr cited Gov. Quinn's budget proposal, but he says Quinn and some legislators also have different projected revenue figures.
Knorr said another ‘loose end’ is the lack of a pension agreement for the state.
“Last week, they tried a number of pension moves, nothing happened," he said. "They’re going to be continuing and continuing and continuing, and we’ve been preparing ourselves for some type of payment that we’ll have to make toward pensions, told normal costs. And so we’ll have to build that into next year’s budget.”
Easter told trustees that their current estimate of funding lost to sequestration is around $32-million for the next fiscal year.
Meanwhile, Knorr says the sequestration could impact between $42-to-65 million in current contracts for research programs.
He says the U of I has told investigators to stay in touch with sponsoring agencies to see about that funding.
U of I Trustees Chair Chris Kennedy said many are being left with the impression that an education at the university is only for the wealthy, calling that a ‘terrible’ outcome.
The Trustees did unanimously approve a contract Thursday for the third phase of a project to renovate the U of I's Assembly Hall. This starts up the design development phase of the project.
At the same time, members of the Urbana campus student body this week approved a $25-per semester fee for renovations to the facility. Unofficial results show the item was approved by a vote of 6,106 to 5,105.
The fee and Trustee-approved consultant contract are expected to go towards upgrades like air conditioning, replacing the electrical distribution system, and restrooms in the upper levels.