The Council on University Planning and Budget heard about the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union’s budget and cost-savings plans at its meeting Friday.
Cathy Engelkes, deputy director of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union, said over the last couple of years union personnel have been trying to implement ways to save money.
Methods include not traveling in several years, dropping staff from 25 to 15 members, reducing overtime and supplies and not advertising as much, except on social media.
Moving forward, the union has several projects and deferred maintenance to get done, Engelkes said, including replacing carpeting in front of the Grand Ballroom, some landscaping, improving the Union’s signage and keeping technology upgraded.
The Union does have a deficit.
Engelkes said this is because the student fee has not had an increase in several years as well as a decrease in enrollment, while utilities have still continued to climb.
“The fixed costs stay the same, (but) the income is just not there,” she said. “This year, though, we are hoping to break even.”
Paul McCann, interim vice president for business affairs, said what the Union has done to fix the deficit is eliminate a lot of the expenses they had as well as using some reserves to cover those within the revenue bond entity.
“As we go forward, the hope is we will be able to modify the expenses enough that we can bring it back into line,” he said. “Is it a perfect plan yet? No, but we’re trying to get there.”
Lynette Drake, interim vice president for student affairs, said many of the staff reductions happened in March, so most of those savings would be realized in this fiscal year.
She said working through the budget this year; they have been able to estimate based on the remaining expenses and the income they have left.
“We are right on target. That was the goal this year, to stop excess spending,” Drake said. “That’s where we’re at.”
Dealing with the deficit was addressed in the vitalization project, McCann said.
The Union allows non-student organizations to use facilities.
From 2012 to 2014, the university allowed a rent charge to come forward but did not charge units around the university to use the Union.
One of the suggestions made in the vitalization project was to explore charging rent to non-student on-campus entities to use rooms in the Union.
Eastern President David Glassman said in his mind, vitalization is not going in that direction.
“This is a Union for everybody,” he said. “But it is a student-paid facility.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. University Union does charge a fee to outside off-campus groups who want to use rooms.
Glassman said the goal is to have a balanced budget.
“It’s the same story so many times, when enrollment goes down and fees that are generated are lower it’s tough to make that balance,” he said. “But I think they are certainly going in that direction.”
Glassman gave an update to the CUPB at the meeting on the university’s progress in finding an outside marketing agency.
Four national agencies provided a proposal, but one of them became ineligible because they did not qualify with all the procurement requirements for the state of Illinois.
“We weren’t really able to evaluate them,” Glassman said.
The other three agencies are now being evaluated.
Glassman said he would like for the administration to have met with these other agencies or even make their decision by the end of the month.
“There’s an urgency in our marketing efforts,” he told the CUPB.
Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]