While continuing to advocate for an end to the state's ongoing budget impasse, President Tim Killeen said Jan. 25 that the university is also proposing solutions to provide stable, predictable funding in the future.
Killeen said he has been working with key legislators to generate support for a "compact" with the state that would ensure reliable, multiyear funding in exchange for meeting standards that serve the needs of the state, such as enrollment, student access and affordability, and graduation rates.
"(The budget impasse) is causing damage, both operationally and reputational," he told members of the Senate Executive Committee at their annual meeting with the president. "But we're still forging ahead on many fronts."
He said the compact would build "a new relationship with the state" and has been well received by legislators from both political parties.
He said the intention behind the compact is to ensure a more dependable revenue stream and avert the crisis management posture illustrated by this year's budget impasse. Under the compact, the state also would ease the rules and regulations that bog down faculty and staff members, including burdensome procurement guidelines.
In return, the university would agree to meet specified benchmarks in areas that benefit the state, such as student recruitment, performance and graduation rates.
"We will be, in essence, signing up to performance (funding)," he said. "There is strong support in moving in that direction."
He said some of the state regulations, though intended to ensure ethical behavior and fairness, were in practice hindering operations at the U. of I.
Killeen said his office is studying areas where rule changes could make a direct financial impact or reduce time spent by faculty and staff members on administrative work. He said regulatory issues also affect faculty and staff member recruitment and retention, because laws in other states are less stringent.
"We worry about retaining key people," he said. "Regulatory relief will help us."
He said other rules being studied are those that impact vendors negatively and limit the purchasing pool.
"We don't want to get away from the spirit of regulation, but regulatory relief will help us," he said. "There was a pendulum swing too far. We'd like to reset our relationship with the state."
He said there are two versions of the compact proposal: one outlining a model to address pension reform, the other without. He said solving the pension problem is an employee-recruitment issue.
Killeen said he'd like to tie the conversation about the compact to the strategic planning currently underway.
The Strategic Plan is an aspirational document meant to set the university's mission for the next five to 10 years. The president has hosted a series of town hall discussions on the three campuses to encourage input. He said he expects a draft of the document to be completed by next month and for it to be finalized by the U. of I. Board of Trustees at its May 19 meeting in Springfield.
As for any benchmarks tied to the compact, he said those details should be worked out alongside faculty senators.
"We will need to have a really in-depth conversation with the senates as far as what that (the benchmarks) means," he said. "This has to be built on shared governance and practice. We need you to own it in the senate because this has to be a joint project."
Killeen said university officials continue to reach out to legislators to make the case that the university, with an overall 19 percent return on every tax dollar invested, is a "profit center" and not a "loss center."
As for news concerning resolving the legislative logjam in Springfield, Killeen said there is nothing new to report. The impasse has left the university without an appropriation or a budget for this fiscal year, which has led to cost-saving measures across its campuses.
"I know there's anxiety and consternation," Killeen said. "The timetable has not been optimal for us and we're doing a lot of things to try to increase our resilience."
But he said the impasse also has provided an opportunity to "talk about the value of what we do for the state and the taxpayers and the tax base."