Budget requests discussed at meeting

By Eric Krol

The second part of next year’s state budget process has been completed, and both state higher education and NIU officials called the phase positive.

NIU President John La Tourette and his staff met with Illinois Board of Higher Education officials late last month to discuss specific budget requests.

Eddie Williams, NIU vice president for finance and planning, characterized the meeting as positive. “We call it the big picture meeting,” Williams said.

“It’s an opportunity for the president and campuses to re-emphasize concerns so that the IBHE staff is sensitive,” he added.

IBHE Deputy Director Ross Hodel said, “The meeting was very positive and productive.”

Williams said he emphasized the importance of faculty and staff salary increases, as well as more support for price increases.

Williams said he didn’t want to speculate on the increased funding from the state and IBHE. However, he said NIU has “taken note” of a recent letter from IBHE Chairman Arthur Quern which stressed the need to prioritize needs at universities in the face of a bleak state financial picture.

The Board of Regents, which governs NIU, requested an overall 17 percent funding increase, including 12 percent for teacher salaries.

Hodel said considering the state budget picture, a 17 percent increase from the legislature is probably not realistic. Hodel said, “Anything double digit is not (realistic).”

However, Hodel said it was too early to tell about a single-digit funding increase or a teacher salary hike.

The legislature will look at financial reports to see the amount of sales tax revenue generated by the Christmas shopping season.

“So, while 17 percent is unrealistic, we don’t yet know what our request will be,” Hodel said.

La Tourette declined to comment because he said he would address the issue at Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting.

The Oct. 21 meeting was part two of the long process in determining next fiscal year’s state budget.

The IBHE staff will continue to meet with all state public universities and community colleges to assess needs. The IBHE staff will present a summary of these meetings to the board in December.

Hodel said all universities have raised the concern that the IBHE take steps to keep faculty from leaving by getting a salary increase.

The IBHE will vote on the staff recommendations at its January meeting and pass them on to Gov. Jim Edgar’s staff.