NIU allocated with new budget plan

By Madison Kacer

The appropriations allocated to NIU by Illinois lawmakers will be used to fund numerous university expenses, a major expense being employee salaries.

NIU was allocated $48.3 million in the six-month budget plan passed by state lawmakers on June 30, said Alan Phillips, NIU vice president for administration and finance. The funds allocated in the budget plan are for fiscal year 2017, but they can still be used to pay for expenses from 2016. This appropriation is in addition to the $26.4 million that was used as a stop-gap allocation in May. NIU was allocated $91 million for fiscal year 2015.

“Because we have significantly less state funding than we have [had] in the past, we will continue to move forward while being very conservative with our expenditures,” Phillips said.

Illinois lawmakers passed this budget after a 12-month budget impasse, which resulted from state lawmakers’ lack of agreement with Gov. Bruce Rauner on a budget for fiscal year 2016. Until the budget was passed, state budget appropriations could not be disbursed, including funding for higher education.

Other expenses that the university plans to use the funding for include equipment and travel. The budget also allocated $15.5 million for the completion of the Stevens Building renovation, which was brought to a stop due to the lack of funding during the budget impasse.

As a result of decreased state funding, some university initiatives have been cut, Phillips said. Maintenance and upkeep spending has been decreased. Rather than spending the $20 million that is typically spent annually on projects such as renovations, only critical maintenance has been tended to.

“When we do make reductions and cut expenses, we’re trying to do it in ways that won’t harm students or take anything away from their ability to continue their education and achieve career success,” Phillips said.

The university is also being conservative with re-filling positions, Phillips said. For instance, if an employee leaves the university on his or her behalf for any reason, officials will evaluate whether re-hiring someone for the position is absolutely necessary. This is being done in hopes of reducing spending on salaries.

Monetary Award Program grants that students received for the spring 2016 semester have been fully funded by state allocations. However, funding for MAP grants in future semesters has not been guaranteed.

“I’m not concerned about [the state not funding MAP grants in the future] at this time,” Phillips said. “The state has a pretty good track record of funding MAP.”