State budget cuts make NIU pay raises unlikely

By Darrell Hassler

The prospect of NIU salary increases is ever so dimmer after the Springfield budget office admitted the state probably won’t get as much Christmas money as it had hoped.

Joan Walters, the budget director for Gov. Jim Edgar, told the Illinois Senate Monday that budget cuts are inevitable unless a Christmas season miracle occurs, the Chicago Tribune reported.

She implied that education and health care to the poor would get the axe. “It’s very difficult to affect spending when you cannot touch the two largest parts (education and health care) of the budget, and yet they are the ones in which there is most of the action,” Walters told the Tribune.

That means NIU could take even a harder hit than it already has.

NIU Vice President of Finance and Planning Eddie Williams said this could jeopardize plans to give NIU faculty and staff raises. Even further, Williams said plans to keep up with soaring employee health insurance costs might be affected.

The continual drying up of state funding could become too much, he said. “There is a point at which you cannot accomodate these things.”

Already, NIU President John La Tourette has been asking departments and colleges to get ready for reductions in money the state had already approved for NIU.

NIU has been trying to at least pay for this year’s $400 increase in an NIU employee’s health benefit. That did not include employee raises that Williams said NIU has been wanting to pay.

Williams said the cold weather has not helped either. NIU administrators had been helping to save some money by cutting down its use of energy.

“We have had to use a lot more energy money than we would normally use up to this point,” he said. “That’s distressing.”

The Tribune reported that the state was hoping a major Christmas season shopping spree would make up for a depressing first quarter of fiscal year 92. The quarter’s state revenue, from July to September, was $83 million less than expected.

Back in July, Williams said rumors about a cash-strapped state caused NIU to start planning for possible cuts, so he said NIU is basically prepared.

But he would not say what NIU would do if asked to make more cuts than expected. “Until we know what the state is going to do, it’s all speculation.”