Peters’ replacement, budget discussed at University Council

By Robert Baird

University Council met for the first time of 2013 to discuss the 2014 budget building process and the progress in finding a replacement for NIU President John Peters.

University Council started at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the Sky Room of the Holmes Student Center. Peters began the meeting by congratulating the football team for competing in the Orange Bowl; he then gave an update on the 2014 budget building process overview.

“This will be a very difficult budget-building process this year,” Peters said. “We’re hoping to receive payments from the state soon, usually in March.”

NIU has an annual budget of about $500 million. The state typically gives about $100 million to the university, according to Peters.

“This year, we should receive $93.5 million from the state, which is about a 6 percent decline from what we were to receive last year,” Peters said.

NIU received the last payment from the State of Illinois on Dec. 31, 2012. The state still owes NIU about $80.7 million, according to the state funding tracker on the NIU website. According to Peters, the amount owed is up to nearly $100 million.

In addition to the budget update, the president advised the council that the planning for the Stevenson Hall renovations is “well underway.”

Grant Tower D and Gilbert Hall renovations will be finished by fall 2013, and the work being done to the intramural fields is “moving along nicely,” according to Peters.

The university is waiting on the “governor’s mention” in March to determine if several changes will be made to revise the state’s employee pension system. There is debate regarding how NIU will compensate for the potential pension plan changes.

“I see no significant increase in tuition, that’s not an option,” Peters said.

Alan Rosenbaum, who is the executive secretary of University Council and also the co-chair of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC), spoke briefly about the committee’s search progress for Peters’ replacement.

“The committee has met several times already, and our meetings are open to the public until further notice,” said Rosenbaum. “We last met on Jan. 11 and our next meeting is this Friday.”

The committee is being assisted by the Parker Executive Search firm, which will have an update on March 1, regarding the search progress.

Sonya Armstrong, the director of the Department of Literacy Education, talked about Illinois Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants.

These grants are available to Illinois residents who are undergraduate students at an Illinois college and are enrolled in at least three credit hours.

“Ten years ago, MAP funding was at 100 percent,” Armstrong said in the council meeting. “Now it’s about 50 percent, which only covers about 37 percent of the total cost of college.”

The Council advised that the Board of Trustees (BOT) approved a mass transit contract since the council’s last meeting on Dec. 5; the BOT also approved an emergency action item requested by Peters in order to fund the Orange Bowl trip.

“A cut down in the amount of paper is encouraged for the next Council meeting,” Rosenbaum said. “We are encouraging individuals to bring a laptop or an iPad to help reduce paper use. The Council would prefer everyone to download the agenda from PDF to help reduce the paper indulgence.”

The next University Council meeting will be Feb. 22.