June 2, 2015 update

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President Randy Dunn sent the following message to faculty and staff:

SIU Colleagues:

As you may know by now from recent media coverage, a resolution to the State of Illinois budget is highly unlikely by the end of this fiscal year, on June 30.  You will recall that the General Assembly passed a spending plan in late May that included an 8.75 percent reduction in state funding for the public universities — a smaller cut than originally proposed, though still harmful to our ongoing operations — but Gov. Rauner, as anticipated, vetoed that budget on Thursday, June 25.  (The state budget was turned down in its entirety by the governor except for the K-12 education budget, which was approved with more than a $250 million increase in funding for the coming year.)  As I write this, there appears to be no clear or obvious solution to a stalemate that some observers suggest could drag on throughout the summer.

As such, it appears that Illinois will begin Fiscal Year 2016 with virtually no budget … and no appropriations to authorize state expenditures, again except for elementary and secondary education.  

And even when a state budget is settled upon between the legislative and executive branches — which will happen eventually — we don’t know exactly what to expect on the revenue-generation side.  As many of us have learned over the years, a governor has the authority NOT to spend appropriated funds, and mid-year rescissions have happened in Illinois repeatedly during previous revenue shortfalls.  Given Gov. Rauner’s original budget proposal for us back in February — which demanded a 31.5 percent cut — it is still possible that the governor might simply choose not to send us all higher education funds once this immediate crisis has passed, even if such funds were already appropriated to us.

So while I note that not having a state budget at the beginning of the fiscal year is not a unique situation for those of us in Illinois, I realize the current impasse in Springfield creates uncertainty for our employees system-wide.  It’s for that reason that I write today: I want to reassure everyone across all of SIU’s locations that even if state government closes its doors at the new fiscal year on July 1 due to the lack of a budget, operations on our campuses will not stop or otherwise be disrupted. We have identified sufficient cash resources to keep us operating well through the fall semester. Our various payrolls will be made on time and as per normal procedure.  More directly said: We’re not closing.

Unfortunately, I cannot make this pledge for those individuals who are employed on grants, projects or contracts paid directly by the state.  Numerous of our colleagues have been, or yet may be, impacted by the suspension of those state-funded grant programs by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.  It hurts me to watch the wind-down of some of those programs now, impacting people (including those served by the projects!) who are just as much a part of the SIU family as any other employee.  And certainly, SIU cannot last indefinitely without our general revenue funding from the state.  Together with the presidents and chancellors of the other public colleges and universities, we will continue to advocate vigorously on behalf of higher education and for a quick and reasonable resolution to the ongoing budget impasse.

SIUE Chancellor Furst-Bowe and SIU School of Medicine Dean Dorsey have done contingency planning  with their staffs and appropriate constituency groups — just as we’ve finished this last week with a final round of budget reviews at the SIUC campus — to address whatever potential new budget realities we get hit with once this standoff resolves.  Earlier this month, for example, the governor’s staff instructed the chief financial officers of all the state agencies — in this case including the universities — to have plans readied on how we would deal with as much as a 20 percent cut in state support.  Such a cut would be absolutely devastating to SIU, but the campuses have those plans drafted if that nuclear option is exercised. 

However, we all have to remember and be buoyed by the fact that we have many, many people who will also continue advocating for us — students, parents, regional leaders, alumni and others — and as I said in a statement following the governor’s veto, we will remain focused on telling our story and sharing the vital resources we bring to our region and the entire state.  And while we stand ready to partner in resolving the state’s fiscal issues, it can’t be done on the back of SIU specifically … or Illinois higher education generally.

I appreciate your patience through all of this and will continue to update you as new information becomes available.

Randy J. Dunn