Hiring freezes ended for now

By Lisa Ferro and Michael McCulloh

NIU President John La Tourette announced Wednesday the hiring freeze will be temporarily lifted.

The intended monthlong freeze was in response to Gov. Jim Edgar’s request that state universities cut 1 percent from their current-year operating budget in order to help stabilize the state’s financial position.

At Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting, the 1 percent cuts were identified by La Tourette. He then said NIU can go on with normal operating procedures.

La Tourette had said last week that if the 1 percent could be outlined, the freeze would be lifted before the intended deadline.

La Tourette said NIU has marked about $550,000 from summer research programs for cuts.

“We’ve covered major contingencies and tried to avoid cuts that would hurt academics.” Only a small amount was asked from the academic affairs division of the college.

NIU would have had further problems for the year if some of the money had not been saved through the winter energy shutdown and employee referrals, La Tourette said.

Because the cuts were taken from NIU’s general revenue fund, the university had to come up with only $900,000. If taken from the entire budget, the school would have had to come up with $1.2 million.

Although the freeze has been lifted, La Tourette foresees more obstacles. “Beginning July 1, we may see greater budget problems. The best we could hope for next year is a flat budget,” he said.

La Tourette said that Edgar’s projected shortfall of $400 million to $500 million in state universities for fiscal year 1992 is based on an emphasis for spending on social problems.

“We’re not experiencing any impact here in terms of recession,” La Tourette said.

Illinois residents pay a tax surcharge, half of which goes to higher education. NIU’s share of that is $6.3 million.

There is a possibility the temporary surcharge will not be made permanent by the Illinois government when it expires at the end of June.

Other NIU budget problems include a 12 percent raise for campus-employed students. The raise was necessary because of the state’s minimum wage increase.

La Tourette said the recent postage stamp increase also has raised concerns. NIU uses classes of mail which have had greater price increases than the recently passed 29 cent stamp increase.

“The (postage) increase is just the tip of the problem,” La Tourette said.

NIU is trying to be cautious, he said. “We’re trying to be as prepared for FY 1992 as we were for this year and are trying to identify funds we can use for constructive purposes,” La Tourette said.