Baker: Employees will not see immediate cuts

By Scott Nicol

Despite more than 200 positions remaining unfilled since September, NIU faculty and staff are not in immediate danger of being laid off because of the state budget impasse.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Fiscal Year 2016 proposed budget includes a reduction in funds to public entities, including NIU’s $93 million in allocations for FY 2015 being cut to about $64 million in 2016. A lack of agreement on the proposed budget has resulted in a seven-month impasse.

As of September 2015, there were a total of 228 positions unfilled because of 389 terminations or retirements, and only 161 new hires for all staff at NIU primarily due to the state budget impasse, said NIU Spokesman Joe King.

The positions unfilled include 112 civil service employees, including janitorial and cafeteria staff and grounds crew, 93 supportive professional staff and 23 other faculty members, according to a chart developed by NIU Human Resource Services.

King said there have been several cuts involving staff since September 2015, but an updated employment chart has not been provided because Human Resource Services is thin on employees.

NIU faculty and staff are not in immediate danger due to a budgeting process overhaul NIU underwent two years ago, said NIU President Doug Baker at the Unity Rally for a State Budget on Thursday.

The rally, held in the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, brought together leaders from the community, including Kishwaukee College President Laurie Borowicz, DeKalb Mayor John Rey, students from NIU and Kishwaukee College and local business owners, to call upon state legislators and bring the budget impasse to a halt.

“We have lost over, approximately, half of our state funding in inflation adjusted dollars since 2002,” Baker said. “That dramatic drop in state funding for our operating budget led to some tuition increases. That has led to affordability concerns for students, and has led to students going out of state for school.”

NIU credited $20 million in MAP grants to 5,700 NIU students for the 2015-16 academic year.

“I come from a single-parent household where my mother makes less than $10,000 a year,” said Briana Smith, junior corporate communications major. “The MAP grant is a piece to the puzzle of my financial life. If I do not receive the MAP grant, I will not be able to graduate because I will not be able to continue my education.”

If no state budget is passed, an estimated 125,000 students in Illinois will not be able to receive their MAP grants, Baker said.

“We believe that ultimately we will get a budget from the state and it will have MAP funding in it,” Baker said. “We will use that money to then go back and cover the credits that we have for students.”