SIU to present budget proposal

By Gus Bode

SIU officials will present the system’s fiscal year 2008 budget to the Illinois House of Representative’s higher education committee in Springfield today.

SIU President Glenn Poshard will present SIU’s budget and discuss the university’s financial needs and priorities.

“We made it very clear that our priority is to try to get as much of an increase in operating funds as possible,” Poshard said Thursday evening while waiting to meet with a member of the committee prior to the hearing.

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The university is requesting a 3 percent boost in money for daily operations, but state officials have called that number unrealistic, Poshard said.

He said SIU has no way of knowing what it will receive.

“We don’t expect more than 1.5 to 2 percent in operations increases,” Poshard said.

Budget hearings were slated for Feb. 16, but a winter storm through central Illinois that brought more than 10 inches of snow shut the legislature down.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich also requested additional time to prepare his budget speech, moving it from Feb. 21 to March 7, said David Gross, executive assistant to the president for government relations.

He said the Illinois House of Representatives decided to proceed with budget hearings to stay on schedule for its May adjournment.

“It’s a bit unusual to have our budget heard before the governor’s budget address, but what the House staff has indicated is that they’re willing to take testimony,” Gross said.

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Poshard said the system’s largest requests meant to garner the maximum operations increase possible.

SIU received the largest operations increase in 2006 at 1.9 percent. All other Illinois schools got a 1.5 percent increase.

The extra .4 percent was awarded for a new lab at the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

All Illinois schools are pushing for a capital bill, Poshard said, adding that the last capital bill passed four or five years ago.

Deferred maintenance has also caused all schools to ask for money to update buildings and equipment, Poshard said.

According to Poshard, the biggest parts of the budget are operations, capital, deferred maintenance and as much research funding as possible.

Poshard said working for an increase in scholarship funds for low and middle-income families was equally important. Cuts at the state and federal level have made higher education a difficulty, he said.

“[The cuts] cut more and more students out who would love to come to higher education, and that’s a bad situation,” Poshard said. “I think every university in the state talked to the budget director about this.”

He said education is this country’s biggest strength and not ensuring an education for the middle class would set the country back.

“This is a dangerous road to keep going down,” Poshard said.

[email protected] 536-3311 ext. 255

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