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President Baker emails campus on state budget

August 31, 2015
NIU President Doug Baker

NIU President Doug Baker

NIU President Doug Baker sent this message today to NIU employees.

One of the things that came through loud and clear in our series of small group meetings with staff and faculty leaders from all over the university this summer is the need for more consistent communications about what’s going on in Springfield.

We’ve been a bit sporadic on this count, largely because the budget impasse between the governor and General Assembly continues, without any resolution on the horizon – so there really hasn’t been much to talk about. But we are monitoring the situation closely, we’re present in Springfield and we’re working cooperatively with other universities in the state through such organizations as the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE). We are working hard to promote our case for the vitally important role that higher education plays for the citizens of our state.

The situation in Springfield was a major topic of conversation Aug. 27 when the Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee of the Board of Trustees met here. We made it clear to the committee that we are taking proactive measures to deal with the uncertainties around the state budget. We are looking at budget reductions, and our effort in this area is aimed primarily at reducing our cost of doing business – finding ways to work more efficiently, seeking cooperative relationships across departments and divisions, and reviewing contractor relationships to see where cuts can be made without compromising our ability to achieve our mission.

I wish I could say when the parties in the state legislature and administration will come to terms on a budget resolution, but we simply don’t know. We suspect it could be take quite some time.  Meanwhile, state employees are being paid, vendors are receiving checks and state agencies are open for business. At some point, there will need to be a resolution, given the huge gap between prospective expenditures and revenues.

During the board’s Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee meeting, the board approved an FY 2016 internal budget based on expected revenues totaling $388 million. This budget could be adjusted when the state budget is passed and final appropriations are known. For now, this budget reflects an 8.6 percent reduction from the FY 2015 budget approved by the board, which totaled $424.5 million. A reduction of this magnitude will require significant effort on the part of the university to do all the things I mentioned earlier to come into balance.

In additional action, the committee also approved an FY 2017 budget request for FY 2017. Without knowing the FY 2016 budget, this was a nearly impossible task. However, the committee approved a $91.1 million request – an amount equal to the FY 2015 revised appropriation received in FY 2015.  At this point in time, based on what we know, this seemed like a prudent request.

We did share a bit of good news with the board, and that is the Illinois Senate’s passage of a bill that would release funds for the Monetary Award Program (MAP), which nearly 6,000 NIU students rely on to help pay their education expenses. The legislation still requires House approval and the governor’s signature. In the meantime, NIU is crediting student accounts in anticipation of receiving those funds. The full Board of Trustees will review these issues and consider the committee recommendations at its next meeting here on campus, scheduled Thursday, Sept. 17.

We will continue to update you as the need arises. Meanwhile, my thanks to all of you for continuing your customary great work at a time of such uncertainty.