BOT approves $172 million budget; state funding uncertain

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

The Board of Trustees passed a budget of about $172 million Friday, though administrators said expenditures could change depending on how much money comes in from the state.

President David Glassman said during a board retreat Saturday that Eastern would have to find ways to reduce expenses and increase revenue to keep the budget balanced.

“There is certainly some work that we have to do at the university in order to make sure we stay within our budget,” Glassman said. “So we’ll be looking at it very, very carefully and making sure that decisions are made in the best interest of the university and our mission.”

He said he would be providing the board as well as shared governance groups and other constituencies with information on those decisions as they come up throughout the year.

Paul McCann, Eastern’s interim vice president for business affairs, said the board’s approval would give the university authority to spend money come Wednesday when fiscal year 2016 begins.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is yet to approve a statewide budget for fiscal year 2016, meaning the amount Eastern will receive in appropriations is still unknown.

Board member Christopher Goetz said he appreciated that Eastern’s budget was conservative and did not make “wild assumptions” about unrealistic increases in revenue. For example, it predicts flat tuition revenue.

“It is on this board’s shoulders to steward the organization for the next 100 years,” Goetz said. “In my opinion as the chair of the finance committee, this budget does that,”

The budget anticipates the university receiving about $40 million for fiscal year 2016 and $38 million for fiscal year 2017.

“Back in 2002, that was the highest year of state funding. We got $54.8 million in that year,” McCann said. “If this goes along with the state cut as proposed by legislature, not by governor, and that’s a 6.5 percent cut, we’d be down to ($40.2 million).”

Rep. Reggie Phillips, representing the 110th House district containing Eastern, said to the board Saturday that former President Bill Perry reasoned the university could handle no more than a 10 percent cut despite Rauner proposing 31.5 percent.

Phillips said he does not think higher education will be cut more than 10 percent.

“I don’t want the governor to give in too much, because I feel this is our opportunity for Illinois to turn the course, and if we waver at this particular time period, we’re going to take bow shots that are going to actually hit in the future,” Phillips said.

Sen. Dale Righter, representing the 55th Senate district containing Eastern, addressed the board Saturday and said he did not believe a budget agreement would be in place by July 7 or 8 when the treasurer is supposed to begin writing checks.

He said the Senate has been meeting as a single committee to hear testimonies on college affordability, minimum wage and other topics not directly related to the budget or to Rauner’s proposed reforms.

“I think that there is the appearance that there is work being done towards a solution, and to some extent that appearance is illusory,” Righter said.

Glassman said Rauner’s office has asked how long Eastern would be able to continue making payments without incoming money.

“We believe we can get through the summer, and as soon as we get into August, then we’ll have tuition dollars, but generally we spend appropriated dollars before we spend tuition dollars,” he said.

Glassman said Eastern would have to use its own liquid cash to continue paying salaries if appropriations stopped, and the university has been asked to stop any building improvements or other work being done with state or federal dollars until the state’s budget is settled.

McCann said this could be problematic because of the state’s typical delay in payments. For example, Eastern is still owed about $5 million for fiscal year 2015.

“If we spend all of our income fund money first, then we’re not going to have the leeway eight months from now to cover the state’s delay in payments,” McCann said.

The Board of Trustees also approved a preliminary budget Friday to submit to the Illinois Board of Higher Education predicting that Eastern would spend $169 million in fiscal year 2017.

In addition to the budget, the board approved five purchases for fiscal year 2016, including:

  • $600,000 to EBSCO Industries for books and periodicals for Booth Library;
  • $540,000 to South Central FS for the supply and delivery of gasoline for university vehicles;
  • $500,000 to Consolidated Communications for telephone service;
  • $350,000 to the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois for a membership for Booth Library; and
  • $300,000 to Yankee Book Peddler for books for Booth Library.


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