Daily Egyptian

SIU president writes about stopgap funding bill in newsletter

SIU President Randy Dunn speaks about Illinois' budgetary issues and how they will affect the university while Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry looks on at a press conference held in the Stone Center. (Image by The Daily Egyptian)

SIU President Randy Dunn speaks about Illinois' budgetary issues and how they will affect the university while Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry looks on at a press conference held in the Stone Center. (Image by The Daily Egyptian)

By SIU President Randy Dunn

In his System Connection newsletter sent out Wednesday, SIU President Randy Dunn wrote about his daughter’s upcoming wedding and a stopgap funding bill Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law last week. His portion about the funding, which can be read below, has been slightly edited for style.  

A week ago Monday, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law SB2059 that authorized $600 million of stopgap funding to the state’s universities, community colleges and MAP grants amid the ongoing budget impasse.

The $54.5 million share coming to the SIU system — a chunk of which, including the [fall 2015] semester of MAP reimbursement, has already been pushed out to us — releases pressure on cash flow and does provide that necessary summer “bridge” funding for us to keep university operations sustained and viable through that period. (That’s more than what we’ve seen with some of our sister schools, if you’ve followed statewide media in the wake of the bill.)  

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Distribution of funds is scheduled to take place running through July at the latest — but again, the total amount received accounts for only about 30 percent of a “regular” annual appropriation (except in the case of Chicago State, which got about 60% of its normal take). Obviously, this can’t be the end of the discussion because we still need a final budget for FY’16 as well as 17!  For those who’ve somewhat cynically said this is all we’ll see for the current fiscal year, we must continue our work to prove them wrong and keep holding our elected officials’ feet to the fire of the bipartisan pledge to get full budgets enacted.  

While last week’s action provides some breathing room for those with the “thinnest liquidity and pressured student markets” — in the words of the public financiers — it doesn’t get us out of the woods.  Only something close to a regular budget(s) can do that.

Between now and that last column on the 18th, our staff at the Stone Center will be taking a close look at updated financial projections which I hope we can extend out to the end of the calendar year to get a keener sense of our fiscal position given this latest funding … assuming we’re still waiting for a budget deal until after the November elections. Once we get a little more comfortable with those numbers, I would hope to share more detail in two weeks about where we go from here. 

However — and this may be the most compelling question on everyone’s mind right now — I no longer anticipate having to move forward anytime this summer with a declaration of financial emergency or exigency, whether it be for a single campus or the whole system. SB2059 has allowed us to take that consideration off the table temporarily. But we’ll have to be right back in Springfield to get the rest of the loaf, and that is my No. 1 intention all the way through to the scheduled end of session on May 31 … and beyond if need be. Even after the Connection is done publishing, I’ll make sure to keep you apprised as developments warrant.

Randy Dunn

Randy Dunn is the president of the Southern Illinois University system.

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