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SPRINGFIELD — Stopgap funding the state approved last month hasn’t ended ongoing budget worries at state universities.

Southern Illinois University and Eastern Illinois university leaders have voiced the same concerns about long-term funding.

Southern's leaders spoke to the university's board of trustees on Thursday. The deal that the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner reached in June provided the SIU system $106.2 million on top of the $57.5 million it received in an April emergency funding bill for higher education.

But that represents just 82 percent of what the university received from the state for the 2014-15 school year, and it’s supposed to cover 18 months’ worth of expenses, from July 1, 2015, through Dec. 31 of this year.

SIU President Randy Dunn reminded trustees of a speech have gave earlier this year, before either of the funding bills was approved, during which he warned of the consequences the campuses in Carbondale, Edwardsville and Springfield would face without the guarantee of state support.

“You can just rewind that speech once again and this time start inserting the date of January 2017, February 2017,” Dunn said.

Although the stopgap funding “is sufficient for us to be able to move forward with relatively normal operations through the first of the calendar year,” he said, “we’re going to be right back to the position we were in last March once we come to that point.”

Despite the infusion of cash, the Carbondale campus has announced nearly $21 million in permanent budget cuts, including laying off some employees and leaving more than 150 positions unfilled, Chancellor Brad Colwell said.

Speaking after the meeting, Dunn said the university system has decided to apply all the state money it has received thus far to expenses from the 2015-16 school year and to continue urging lawmakers to provide adequate funding for the full 2016-17 school year.

“We thought, ‘Let’s get the bills paid that are out there,’ ” he said. “And that gives us a very strong argument to say, ‘Now fund us for ’17. You didn’t even get us totally caught up for (fiscal year) ’16.’ ”

Board chairman Randal Thomas said trustees will continue reaching out to lawmakers – and urging alumni to do the same – to pressure them to approve funding.

“Everyone who has a campus (in his or her district) needs to hear from us,” Thomas said.

Eastern Illinois University will have to continue to remain sparing with expenditures into the fall semester, but a need for further layoffs is unlikely in the near future with the assistance of recent state funding.

EIU President David Glassman said because of the latest state appropriation geared toward assisting higher education, he does not anticipate additional "major cuts in EIU's personnel."

The state appropriated $26.2 million to Eastern, which is meant to assist the university in operational expenses through the end of the calendar year. The university will also receive the remaining amount of MAP funding ($3.5 million) that Eastern advanced to its students in spring 2016.

This is only a temporary measure, though, and the university will have to proceed with spending cautiously, Glassman said.

"Because EIU has not received a full (fiscal year 2017) budget, we do not know what level of funding to expect after Jan. 1, 2017," he said. "Therefore, we must continue to be very fiscally prudent and cautious on our expenditures throughout the fall."

However, Glassman said the university has been able to call back a few individuals who were laid off.

Glassman said the outlook after the end of the year appears positive for the university as long as the state's plan for full funding soon is followed. The state legislature may appropriate more funds or actually have a full budget in place by the end of the calendar year.

"I am very hopeful that the pattern of sporadic stopgap funding measures rather than full year funding will not continue," he said. "The importance of receiving a full (fiscal year) budget cannot be understated. It is the only way in which universities can make essential planning decisions and implement strategic initiatives necessary for improving the institution and enhancing academic excellence."

This latest stopgap funding was the second time the state legislature provided temporary funding while members try to decide on a budget. This appropriation is more than double the funding of what the university received earlier this year, however, it is still a departure from the $40 million appropriated in fiscal year 2015.

Now 14 days into another fiscal year, the university has received $38.7 in appropriated funds, excluding MAP grant funding.

With or without further funding, the university will still be able to operate past Dec. 31, even though it no longer has reserves for protection. Glassman said the combination of tuition money and state funding will move the university forward.

​daniel.petrella@lee.net|(217) 782-4043

 

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