Eastern sees balanced budget, new capital projects bill

Analicia Haynes, Senior Staff Reporter

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The Board of Trustees approved Eastern’s preliminary budget for this next fiscal year and the budget projection for FY21.

The balanced budget comes after the state appropriated $41,424.3 to Eastern, including new capital budget allocations and reallocations for FY19.

Overall, the state’s budget includes $1.03 billion in reappropriated capital and capital renewal funding for public universities, community colleges and the Illinois Math and Science Academy, and $2.1 billion in new funding for capital renewal and priority projects for a total of $3.2 billion, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

As a part of this funding, $75 million was reappropriated for deferred maintenance emergencies, and health and safety and $25 million was reappropriated for cost escalations and emergencies.

Eastern received $9.6 million in reappropriated capital funds to finish capital projects that were already started.

Examples of these projects include fixing the elevators in McAfee Gym and Student Services or HVAC work in the Life Sciences Building and Coleman Hall.

These projects including deferred maintenance items and emergency items were started during FY19 and are the current projects that are taking place on campus, they are not part of the new capital development projects funded by the new capital bill.

Eastern received $138.3 million in capital development funds for new projects and its main capital project is building a new science building, something Paul McCann, the interim vice president of business affairs, said was the only thing they “wanted for Christmas.”

But McCann said during an earlier interview that he is not sure when the university will receive these funds.

He said the first thing to happen is almost everything in the new capital bill is going to be bonded, meaning that the state is going to issue debt in order to afford everything that goes on.

Then the state figures out where the priorities for capital development are.

“Among all the (probably) thousands of items in (the capital bill) (the State has) to figure out which goes first, which goes second, then (the State has) to start identifying how much cost there is with each one of those (items),” McCann said.

McCann said if the State decides that the science building is number six on its priority list (since that is where it is ranked on the IBHE list), then the State will figure out how much money it can afford to bond at this time because there is only a certain amount of debt service that they can have with the current sources of revenue.

These current sources of revenue include the recent increase in taxes such as the income tax increase.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch,” McCann said referring to the capital bill and how the State will fund it. “Now (the State) comes up with a bill, sets the priorities, comes up with the money, then starts the process. Where we will end up on that list, whether the emergency projects come first then the capital projects, nobody knows at this point.”

However, McCann said this does not necessarily mean bad news.

“(Receiving the capital appropriation is) definitely good news. You have to be on the list, you have to get an appropriation before any of the other stuff works.

We’ve done those two steps, now (the State) figured out how to pay for it (with all the increase in taxes), then (the State) figures out how much money it got and when it can start spending it,” McCann said.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].