Pritchard: Ill. budget unlikely before July

By Alex Chettiath

Construction of the Stevens Building may come to a halt June 30 as state budget issues continue to be problematic for NIU.

Illinois legislators started sending budget bills to Gov. Bruce Rauner for approval Wednesday; however, Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) said he doesn’t expect to see an approved budget before July 1 at a Board of Trustees meeting Thursday.

The construction of the Stevens Building is a state funded project and development will stop if the capital budget bill is not approved before July, said Mike Mann, Assistant Vice President of Budgeting and Finance.

“Our hands are tied on it because it is a state-funded project and the [Capital Development Board] is the state construction management agency, so technically it is their project and the contractors are paid by the CDB,” Mann said. “We have little flexibility in this matter.”

The Capital Development Board announced on its website all work being performed under Capital Projects must stop effective June 30 without a budget.

“If it is determined that the funding problem cannot be fixed in a reasonable time, then the CDB will formally advise you that the contract is suspended,” according to the Capital Development Board announcement.

There has been no precedent for a complete shutdown of this magnitude, Mann said.

Construction for the $22.5 million project began Sept. 22 and is 40 percent finished with an estimated completion date of early March, said Alan Phillips, vice president for Administration and Finance. The building will include a theatre with a supporting scene shop and a 330-seat lecture hall, according to a Sept. 23 Northern Star article.

University operations to continue

NIU can be self-sufficient for several months in Fiscal Year 2016 without new Illinois money, Phillips said.

The General Assembly’s state budget, which it passed in May, would allocate $85.2 million, down 6.5 percent from the $93 million for Fiscal Year 2015. NIU could initially get by without a state allocation because the comptroller will still be able to pay money owed from Fiscal Year 2015, Phillips said.

“Approximately 20 percent of NIU’s budget comes from state appropriations,” Phillips said. “The rest of the funds come from tuition and fees, bond funds, other sources of revenue … and since the state is behind in payments, about six months, the state owes us roughly $22 million for FY15.”

NIU will also have tuition and fees from the summer and fall semesters to give an added cushion, said President Doug Baker in and email to faculty and staff Tuesday, according to an NIU Today news release.

“I want to be clear that our intention is to continue to pay our staff and faculty throughout the budget impasse and to keep our doors open,” Baker said in the email, according to NIU.

“We have faith that our elected state officials will find a compromise and resolve the budget impasse in the coming weeks.”