SIU could face more budget cuts

By Joshua Murray

James Applegate, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, said state universities should plan for substantial budget cuts next year.

In an email sent to Illinois university presidents today, Applegate said all state agencies should plan for a 20 percent reduction of state appropriations in 2016. He said the numbers are preliminary and a worst-case scenario.

“All of the state agencies have been asked to do a scenario of what a 20 percent reduction in budget for next year would entail,” Applegate said.

Advertisement

SIU President Randy Dunn said the news was not unexpected, and the projected budget cut would result in more than $40 million from SIU’s campuses. He said in a separate interview with WSIU the numbers are an early projection.

“This is only the first instruction, it doesn’t mean that that’s what the state budget will look like,” Dunn said. “But that work has begun to create some different scenarios for the governor-elect’s budget team.”

He said for the university to reach that 20 percent reduction, it would not have across-the-board budget cuts but complete elimination of some programs. He said instead of cutting student services that are essential to the university’s mission, he would consider abandoning or postponing funding for other programs.

Dunn also left the door open for tuition and fee increases next year.

“Part of what will help offset this, is going to be some sort of increase, potentially, in tuition and fees,” he said. “It’s way too early to start announcing what that would be, but we’re at a point where I don’t think we can just automatically say we’re going to freeze tuition and fees heading into the 2015-16 year.”

Applegate also said universities may be asked to create a 10 to 15 percent reserve for this year, but that was still under discussion.

Dunn said he is aware of the possible reserve for this year but will try to continue business as usual on campus.

Advertisement

“We may have to do some severe things into the spring depending on what we have handed to us [in terms of state funding],” he said. “But I’d really like to do everything I can to keep operations continuous through the spring.”

Applegate said there is a long road ahead before deciding next year’s budget and this is Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner’s initial effort to manage it.

He delivered the news after meeting with Rauner’s transition team, and said this tentative plan is a way for state agencies to help the new administration begin to develop the budget.

“This is a planning device so we can begin to look at our priorities in Illinois and decide where to invest,” he said.

Applegate said although it is still an exploratory option and nothing has been officially decided, it is a good place to begin.

“This is probably a reasonable place for the new governor to start to see what that would look like and then to begin to think about revenue sources and other strategies that mitigate the consequences of such a cut,” Applegate said.

The news comes on the heels of more than a decade of budget cuts for the university.

With Gov. Pat Quinn’s 2011 income tax increase set to roll back after the New Year, the university could face a loss of more than 12 percent in state appropriations. This would add to the $50 million-plus that has already been cut from SIU’s budget in the past decade.

Dunn said the university is in the beginning stages of planning if the state tax rate is rolled back as scheduled.

Advertisement