A proposal by Gov. Rod Blagojevich that state universities and other state agencies cut 8 percent from this year’s budget would mean layoffs for student workers, graduate assistants and employees, cutbacks in undergraduate courses and library services and would jeopardize the university’s ability to compete for research funds. That’s the message the UI Board of Trustees heard from all three chancellors and top administrators at the March 13 trustees’ meeting in Rockford.
The trustees emphasized their concern for financial accountability by asking campus administrators to review their administrative structures for possible streamlining and provide a more detailed report of future operating budgets.
The board also agreed to follow the same rules for travel expense reimbursements as other state university employees.
Two weeks ago, Blagojevich asked state universities and agencies to look at their current budgets and identify ways to cut 8 percent. This would total nearly $59 million for the UI, based on its $730 million appropriation from the state legislature for day-to-day operation. The universities had four days to respond.
The UI was able to pull together about 4.25 percent, or $31.2 million from three sources:
1. Suspecting there could be another midyear rescission (as there was last year), the university had held back $13.4 million that was earmarked for high-priority deferred maintenance, repair and renovation projects, and facility renovation projects on all three campuses. In typical years, that money would be distributed to the three campuses early in the fiscal year and the campuses would do the projects on their own timetable.
2. University administration would further reduce spending by $4 million.
3. The three campuses combined would make spending reductions totaling some $13.7 million.
These potential actions – each a blow to students, faculty and staff members and the people the university serves – were developed by senior academic officials on the campuses themselves.
At Urbana-Champaign, an 8 percent rescission would mean cuts of nearly $21 million, and cutbacks in teaching, research, technology and business operations, said Chancellor Nancy Cantor.
Campus seed grant programs that provide matching funds for research grants from outside sources would fall to the budget ax, with a loss of $20 million and 232 jobs, Cantor said.
"These seed grant programs are absolutely critical to our ability to compete for research funds," Cantor said. (See a complete list of potential cuts for the Urbana campus.)
At UIC, an 8 percent cut would mean the loss of 850 student jobs, eliminating summer session, cuts in library services, laying off 275 noncontract workers, dropping summer orientation for incoming students and parents and reducing matching funds for federal grants. UIC Chancellor Sylvia Manning also decried the effects of deferred maintenance on campus buildings.
"In many cases, there is a tremendous premium paid for the deferral," Manning said, giving as an example failing to replace an aging pipe, which subsequently bursts and damages ceilings, walls, computers and office equipment.
The impact of an 8 percent cut would be devastating for the Springfield campus because "we have no reserves," said Chancellor Richard Ringeisen. "We can’t do it. There is not that kind of money on our campus."
"If I could use one word to describe what is lost, it would be ‘quality,’ " said UI President James J. Stukel. "And quality is the only commodity we have that makes us different."
In any case, because so much of the UI’s operating budget is salary and wages – about 80 percent – positions are once again at risk, the president said.
"If the FY03 rescission becomes permanent in FY 04, the number of layoffs will rise substantially," Stukel said.
For example, if the state cuts the university’s budget under the 4.25 percent scenario, some 375 positions are at risk. Under the full 8 percent scenario, some 700 positions are at risk. These lost positions are on top of the 900 full-time-equivalent positions eliminated to cover the FY 03 recurring budget cuts. The university’s official employee payroll count as of last October was 23,485; layoffs, notices of non-reappointment and other employment actions are not necessarily reflected in that number.
"The University of Illinois is challenged more seriously today than at any time in my 40-plus-year career with the institution," Stukel said. "We need to work together and make the right decisions now to ensure that the university meets these challenges."