Low state funds elevate debt

By Jean Dobrzynski

Merchants selling goods and services to NIU are waiting for their money from the state that has accumulated to $450,000 in past-due bills.

NIU Chief Accountant Douglas Moore said the recession is causing a backlog in bills paid with tax money which is putting a strain on NIU, but there is nothing he can do about it.

For example, Moore said NIU writes a purchase order for a piece of equipment to a vendor. After NIU receives the order, an invoice is issued and NIU sends a copy of it to the State Comptroller’s office in Springfield.

“We are doing our part, but there’s not much we can do but tell them their bill was sent to Springfield,” he said. “There’s not much they (Springfield) can do either because there is not enough money in the state treasury.”

Moore said within the last three weeks, the bills for goods and services, such as equipment and printing bills that normally would have been paid at this time, add up to $450,000.

Moore said this figure is large, but not far from other state universities. “I would suspect all state schools are around this number, but the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana is probably over a million (dollars) with their huge budget,” he said. “Normally this number is at zero for NIU.”

Moore said when everything is going smoothly in the economy, there is a normal two-week wait for a vendor to receive the money, but with the sluggish economy today, the wait is longer.

“The vendors are waiting two weeks and an additional four weeks to get their money from the comptroller’s office,” he said.

Despite the extra long wait, NIU director of purchasing Marilyn Botrell said there have been no calls from vendors complaining about their past due bills. “They must be understanding is all I have to say,” she said.

Deputy press secretary for the State Comptroller’s office Barnaby Dinges said no one knows where this problem is heading.

“Right now it’s tough, but it’s up to the governor to find out where the money is going to come from,” he said.

Dinges said the state comptroller is not on record saying how long the delay will last, but in the past has recommended borrowing funds.

“It’s cheaper for the state to borrow money when you look at it interest-wise,” he said.

Moore said he is hoping the problem does not get worse before it gets better. “It will probably stay the same for a while,” he said. “It might get better in the spring when people are paying their income taxes or during the holiday season.”