While the appropriations bill passed by the Illinois General Assembly in May spared the UI from the drastic budget cuts it has seen in recent years, units on the UI’s three campuses will have to tighten their belts another notch to help balance the university’s FY06 budget.
Many units on campus were recently notified that their budgets for FY06, which began July 1, would be reduced by about 4 percent to help bridge a $30 million gap. About 3.6 percent of each unit’s funds are being withheld to cover programs and expenses not included in the state appropriations; another 0.3 percent is being used to fund the Target of Opportunity Program and Dual-Career Hiring Program, each of which supports special faculty hiring opportunities.
The UI will receive about $1 billion in state funds for FY06, approximately the same funding it received for the prior fiscal year. University officials had asked for a 7.6 percent increase in FY06 to cover about $47 million in new expenses, including unavoidables such as escalating costs for utilities and Medicare contributions, costs of maintaining new and renovated facilities and $25.8 million for salary and benefit increases for faculty and staff members.
At its May meeting, the UI Board of Trustees approved 7 percent tuition increases for continuing students and 9 percent increases for new students – increases that are expected to bring in an additional $29.3 million this fiscal year.
Some units, including the University Library and the Division of Public Safety, were exempted from the budget reductions as were some smaller programs, such as the Faculty-Staff Assistance Program, that have no margin in their budgets to absorb further cuts, said Bill Adams, associate provost. Some academic units, such as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which will have the largest influx of freshmen this fall, will receive non-recurring funds to help them accommodate the additional students. Campuswide, fewer courses will be available and class size will increase.
“There were a few layoffs but not nearly so many,” Adams said. “We had a structured layoff process again this year like we had in past years. We’ve learned that by getting a handle on this early and treating them as a large group we can find places for most of the employees. The units anticipate this, and they aren’t filling a lot of the positions. I think there will be fewer faculty (members) hired this year. There will be some but my sense is that it will be about half of what the normal rate would be.”
In addition to positions that remain unfilled, approximately 30 positions across several units on campus were eliminated because of the flat state budget; the majority of the civil service and academic professional employees affected were reassigned while a few who were eligible opted to retire and a couple of people resigned.
Administrators in the University Library are considering reducing graduate assistants’ work schedules from 14 hours per week to 10 hours to cut costs. Such cuts will not be apparent to library patrons but would place greater demands on staff members to provide services and keep facilities open and operating the same number of hours, said Bob Burger, associate university librarian for services.
“We’re pretty much cut to the bone,” Burger said. “We don’t want to have to lay people off. We have 42 libraries around campus, so if we start cutting staffing much more, we’re not going to be able to operate.”
A temporary allocation of $600,000 that the library received in FY05 was made a permanent allocation in FY06. The library was allocated another $400,000 as well, but it is uncertain how much of the additional money will be available to supplement the library’s collections once other expenses are covered, such as staffing, equipping and maintaining the new high-density storage area that opened last fall, Burger said.
Although the General Assembly passed the university’s operating budget at the end of May, legislators did not address the UI’s $295.2 million capital budget request for FY06. More than $176 million of the capital budget was intended for projects at the Urbana campus, including repairs and renovations, $48.6 million for the Lincoln Hall remodeling, and $48 million to continue the South Campus development project.
Although there has been some speculation that legislators will act on the capital budget during the General Assembly’s fall veto session, Adams said it is likely that the university will not receive any funds for capital projects in FY06, just like in FY05, although he expressed hope for the return of a more positive economic climate that would facilitate state support.
“At this point, the thought is that we are likely to have one more year (similar) to this (year),” Adams said. Looking longer term, he expressed hope for the return of a more positive climate for state budget support, observing that, “The state economy certainly is in recovery. Whether we get a little bit of relief this year or the following year, we are optimistic about getting out of this down cycle.”