UI President James J. Stukel has commended the budget crafted by Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois General Assembly as an austere plan to erase a crippling state deficit, and he said the university remains dedicated to preserving quality as it manages its way through the fiscal crisis.
"High quality distinguishes our three campuses and makes the UI one of the best in the nation. The challenge always is to keep our edge in the face of diminished resources and we accomplish this through a dedicated faculty and staff, and efficient management," Stukel said. "I am confident our university has the leadership and spirit to persevere in these difficult times."
The Illinois General Assembly recently approved a state budget for the fiscal year 2004 beginning July 1 and sent it to Blagojevich for his action. The governor and lawmakers must erase a projected $5 billion state deficit to have a balanced budget. Illinois public higher education worked with Gov. Blagojevich and legislators for an agreed-upon level of reduced state funding.
The UI’s appropriation of about $697 million in state general revenue funds is nearly 8 percent less than the appropriation made a year ago for fiscal 2003, which ends June 30. The reduced fiscal 2004 appropriation follows a $29 million state funding rescission made in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2003.
The state’s share of general revenue funds to the university has fallen by a total of about $107 million since fiscal year 2002. State general revenue funds now account for about 27.5 percent of the total revenue used to operate the university, which educates nearly 71,000 students on three campuses.
Additionally, the university must continue to reallocate nearly $25 million in general revenue funds for health insurance costs, as was done in the previous two years.
Stukel said the loss of state funds in recent years has had an impact on the university and will continue to do so, in the form of fewer administrators, faculty and staff, reductions in academic programs and services for students. "Eighty cents out of every dollar in the state-funded portion of the university’s budget is committed to salaries and wages, and in some academic departments, as much as 95 percent of the budget is personnel," Stukel said.
In addition to the workforce reductions, the university in the past year imposed a hiring freeze and it froze the salaries of most employees. At the direction of the UI Board of Trustees, the central administration and leadership on each of the campuses stepped-up ongoing reviews of operations for greater accountability and efficiency. Stukel is scheduled to present a progress report on those initiatives at the July meeting of the board.
"Fortunately for the taxpayers who support the UI and for those who depend on it for world-class education or research, we have innovative, creative and resilient people who will help keep us focused on quality as we manage the University’s finances the most effectively," Stukel said.
On the capital side, the fiscal 2004 budget news was brighter. The Legislature adopted the governor’s recommendation to provide $10.7 million to the University to remodel and renovate facilities, and added $2 million in planning funds for the Lincoln Hall renovation on the Urbana campus. Lawmakers also provided for the continuation of projects such as the College of Medicine research building on the Chicago campus; the Siebel Center for Computer Science, Post-Genomic Institute and other research and technology facilities in Urbana; and for the classroom-office building on the Springfield campus.
"The capital budget protects and enhances important investments made in previous generations, keeps us competitive and enables us to excel with an environment conducive to education and research," Stukel said.
Stukel applauded the governor, who is an ex officio member of the Board of Trustees, and the four legislative leaders for their candor and cooperation in the budget process, and he thanked members of the board for their support.
"Our state is coping with its worst fiscal crisis since the Depression and Gov. Blagojevich inherited an enormous deficit for which there was no easy solution. I commend the governor and the leaders of the General Assembly for working together and with the state’s public universities to develop a reasonable and responsible budget under the circumstances," Stukel said.
Stukel also praised legislators from throughout the state who were diligent in representing the interests of the university.
"Based on my eight years as university president and my trips to the Capitol this spring, this was the most rigorous legislative session in memory and we are grateful to all those who spoke and acted on behalf of our great university," he said