NIU prepares budget plans

By Eric Krol

Although Gov. Jim Edgar has proposed a 3 percent slash in the remainder of this year’s budget, NIU has been preparing for the cut since last summer, administrators said.

If Edgar’s 3 percent across-the-board spending cut is approved by the legislature, NIU stands to lose $2.5 million, NIU President John La Tourette said.

However, he said NIU has been working on contingency plans with Eddie Williams, vice president of Finance and Planning, since last July’s state budget crisis. “We are prepared to deal with the issue,” La Tourette said.

If the cut is made, NIU will reenact a strict hiring freeze, La Tourette said. “Up until now, we were being very selective about which positions we replaced,” he said.

NIU also will cancel all small and mid-level repair and renovation projects, he said.

Edgar’s move could have disastrous effects for the 3 percent salary offset NIU faculty and staff were slated to receive. “We’re still looking at that. I’m hopeful we could still do something,” La Tourette said.

Democrats have been describing the proposed cuts as 7 percent cuts, since Edgar wants to trim the budget by 3 percent over the last five months of the fiscal year, said Ken Beasley, La Tourette’s assistant for governmental affairs.

At last week’s Illinois Board of Higher Education meeting, IBHE Executive Director Richard Wagner said about $49.3 million would be slashed from higher education.

La Tourette said, “You have to put this in context.” NIU lost $1.1 million from last year and with this mid-year reduction, we would lose $3.6 million, he said.

He also expressed concern about the recession’s effect on next year’s budget. “Any cuts we have this year result in a lower base next year,” La Tourette said.

La Tourette said he will be reviewing various budget scenarios this week with the vice presidents, deans and faculty and staff leaders. More details will be given out at Wednesday’s University Council meeting, he said.