Regents request smaller budgets

By Brian Slupski

With next year’s budget process already underway, the Board of Regents has decided to stop asking for the sky.

Each year the budget process gets underway in July when the Regents approve budget preparation guidelines for NIU, Illinois State University and Sangamon State University. The universities then draw up their budget requests and present them to the Regents at the September meeting.

For fiscal year 1994, the Regents approved a 6 percent guideline for faculty and staff salary increases, 6 percent guideline for library materials and 3 percent guideline for general cost increases.

Chancellor’s assistant Cheryl Peck said in past years the figures given were considerably higher, but those past requests still reflected university needs.

“The figures this year could really by higher. The needs (of higher education) are definitely not being met,” she said.

Peck pointed to shrinking course sections, the downsizing of enrollments, and lack of faculty raises as a few examples of unmet university needs.

“(Figures are) just not an honest reflection of need. But these recommendations are more realistic,” Peck said.

Regents vice chairman Milton McClure said in past years, the budget requests focused on what the universities needed for all things they provided as well as for things they wished to provide.

The requests this year reflect a recognition by the Regents of an economic reality which is increasingly gloomy and shows little sign of improvement.

The new method of figuring budget guidelines represents a shift in Regents’ strategy. During the past few years the Regents subscribed to the “pie in the sky theory.” This school of budgetary thought dictates that universities should show exactly how much funding they need, no matter how high the amount.

In fact, last year the Regents approved budgets which asked for a 17 percent increase, including 12 percent for faculty raises. The state legislature did not come through with these increases.

The new plan of attack is meeting the legislature half way, presenting smaller requests in a recognition of economic reality. There simply is not much money clinking around in state coffers.

McClure said this budget request is not a “wish list” for the universities, but the bare essentials of what the schools need.

“There’s been a stark recognition that taxpayer funds are not endless.

“All of the university systems have had to face the reality that the state is out of money,” McClure said.

He said it is a realistic budget in tough economic times, but added that if the universities do not recieve what they asked for “they will be in a world of hurt.”

“I strongly suggest the legislature adopt these figures. It is the bare bones of what the universities’ need,” McClure said.