Eastern seeks preliminary budget approval

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

Eastern will submit a preliminary budget to the Board of Trustees Friday giving the university the authority to spend money in the fiscal year that begins Wednesday despite the state dragging out its own budgetary process.

The preliminary budget could change in the future depending on how much money the state appropriates to the university, but it would give Eastern the ability to spend money going into fiscal year 2016.

The legislature is in an extended session and awaiting Gov. Bruce Rauner to make his final decision on which version of the state budget to approve.

Rauner initially proposed a 31.5 percent cut to higher education, while Democratic leadership drafted an alternate budget that would spend nearly $4 billion more than the state’s anticipated revenue.

Paul McCann, the interim vice president for business affairs, said he would be asking the board for authority to spend at a reduced rate in the upcoming fiscal year.

“We are required by law to have a budget, and in order to be open for business come July 1, we have to have a document,” he said.

He said he hopes to have some clarity as to what the state will allocate to Eastern and can adjust the budget accordingly by the next board meeting in September.

“What that’s going to be is still somewhat up in the air because we’re hoping against hope that the governor and the legislature come together and we have a budget,” McCann said. “Otherwise it’s going to be a best guess at this point of what we have to spend.”

Without budget approval from the governor, the first state employee payroll would not be able to be met by mid-July because there would be no appropriations authority, according to ChicagoBusiness.com.

McCann said Eastern would still be able to pay its employees in the event that the state does not have a finalized budget by then.

“Certain entities within the state are subject to general revenue funds. We get a portion of those, but for the most part we are funded through tuition and fees, and we have a separate board,” he said. “So we’re not necessarily subject to the same rules (as) say, the department of human services (or) department of commerce and economic opportunity; those are true state agencies that don’t have any outside monies coming in.”

Though, he said employees funded by state grants, such as biology students who work on the Wabash River, would not be able to be paid without state support.

“Just as an example, if we weren’t assured that we would get the money then we wouldn’t be sending people out and incurring that expense because we’re doing that work for someone else,” he said.

Eastern will also be submitting a budget for fiscal year 2017 to the board on Friday.

McCann said this would mostly consist of predictions as to what larger spending items might come up in 2017.

The university is required to give the Board of Higher Education an indication of what it might spend in 2017 by Oct. 2016, and this will give Eastern time to prepare with the knowledge of the board’s support, he said.

“That one is even a little bit murkier from the standpoint of what we’re asking from the board,” he said. “It’s more big-picture things.”

For example, this budget submission will include money for a new science building as well as program priority requests, or “new money that we’d like from the state if they ever had any,” McCann said.

The board is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Friday in the University Ballroom of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

“This is a unique situation this year where we’re going to do a preliminary budget before we get to year end,” McCann said. “If I was given a choice, I wouldn’t want to do it this way, but I just don’t have a choice this year.”


Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].