BOT discusses $8.32 M for construction of land near Convo

By Melissa Blake

NIU Board of Trustees members discussed the Federal Highway Fund and voiced concerns over possible pension changes for faculty at the Legislation, Audit and External Affairs Committee’s second meeting of the year Friday at NIU’s Hoffman Estates campus.

“There were no action items at the meeting,” said Myron Siegel, chair of the LA & EAC, meaning no votes were taken.

NIU officials will use $8.32 million of President Bush’s $286.5 billion transportation bill to build on 230 acres near the Convocation Center, said Kathryn Buettner, associate vice president and executive director for external affairs and economic development. In the past, NIU’s “budgetary constraints” prevented planning for the area, she said.

Siegel also said the BOT voiced “concern and frustration” over the fiscal problems of the state, in particular pension changes for faculty and staff.

There are no changes in benefit plans for current employees; the changes pertain to those hired after July 1, said Steve Cunningham, associate vice president for administration and human resources. There will be a decrease of $2.1 billion in state funding over the next two fiscal years.

“This is something we’ve been very active in monitoring,” he said, because the State University Retirement System is employees’ basic retirement program.

Right now, officials’ primary concern is the possibility of other benefit cuts.

The state needs to take action to stabilize the funding plan, Cunningham said.

“The bottom line is the changes will decrease the benefits that were previously available,” he said. “We’re concerned about these things and how they’re impacting our people.”