State tax collections down

By Gus Bode

State budget could have big negative affects on SIUC

January was another bad month for Illinois’ tax collections, making an already bleak state financial situation worse.

It is possible that for only the second time in a half-century Illinois could end up collecting less tax revenue by the end of the budget year, which concludes June 30, than it did the previous year. The last time state revenues were down from the year before was just last year, leaving the state with less relief and more worries.


More worries to the state’s economic outlook, means more worries for SIUC.

“Obviously state law requires Illinois to have a balanced budget, so if there are more shortfalls it means that the governor and state legislators will have to make cuts in every part of the government,” said Glenn Poshard, vice chancellor for Administration.

Unfortunately, those cuts may very well extend to higher education.

“There is no way for them to make the budget they passed, so they will have to come back and make cuts,” Poshard said.

The administration is aware of the cuts that might be in the near future of SIUC. And Poshard says they have already prepared.

Last semester, departments summated plans to Chancellor Walter Wendler for budget cuts for fiscal year 2004. The cuts range from 5 percent to 10 percent, depending on severity of the economic problems.

The SIUC budget task force recently began reviewing these plans – plans that may in fact become a reality if the state cuts funds to the University.


Poshard said he applauds Wendler for foreseeing fiscal problems in advance. In fact, Poshard said the plans, including tuition increases, have put SIUC far ahead of other universities in preparation for budget cuts.

Poshard said though difficult economic times may continue for the state and the University, the administration can and will keep their proposed promises to tenured and tenure-track faculty, including gradual raises guaranteeing 7.5 percent during the next three years, 26 to one student/faculty ratios and no faculty layoffs.

“If economic conditions continue or get worse, we’ll have to find a way within the University to keep our promises,” Poshard said.

Still, Poshard admits, the cuts won’t come easily for the SIUC community.

“We have a hard road in front of us if the state revenue continues to go down and the state comes to higher education for cuts,” he said.

SIUC might be preparing for Illinois’ tough economic times, but City Manager Jeff Doherty says it won’t be such an issue for Carbondale.

“Unless the state cuts by a dramatic number, it is not going to affect our current operations,” Doherty said. “We have the financial stability to carry our operations through times of decreased revenues.”

Doherty credits Carbondale’s strong retail economy for leading the city through any cuts the state might hand it.

“The state’s tax revenues do not reflect the Carbondale economy,” he said. “In fact, sales tax for the current fiscal year is up 6.8 percent.”

SIUC and Carbondale will find out how steep their cuts will actually be in April, when Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has asked lawmakers for a two-month extension to prepare the budget, reveals his plan.

Poshard says the delay was probably needed, but it makes a bad situation worse for SIUC, which will only have two months to make up for those cuts.

Reporter Kristina Herrndobler can be reached at [email protected]