Governor asks schools to reserve their funds

By Mary Versaci

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has asked Illinois public universities to place 2.5 percent of their state appropriations in reserve in preparation for a rescission.

This announcement came after Blagojevich’s proposed plan asking for as much as 8 percent was not granted legislative authority.

The governor’s Office of Management and Budget imposed the 2.5 percent reserve requirement and as a matter of courtesy, asked the Illinois Board of Higher Education to convey the message to the universities, said Donald Sevener, the board’s deputy director of external relations.

This requirement equals about $18 million for the University, including its campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield, said Tom Hardy, the University’s executive director of external relations.

“It will essentially be like there was no increase in funding for this fiscal year,” Hardy said. The University had received about $20 million more in fiscal year 2009 from the state than in 2008.

In preparation for a rescission, the University had already put aside $21 million before any announcement was made by the state.

“We anticipated a challenging financial situation for the University very well,” Hardy added.

The University is not expecting to find out exactly how much funding the state will be taking back from that reserve until after Jan. 1, 2009.

“If we only have to give back our increase in the appropriation we received for 2009, there won’t be as much pain as we anticipated in the system this year,” he said.

In the meantime, the University is making contingency plans.

“Like any household or business, when you’re in one of these situations, you look at the books and identify where you can get immediate savings,” Hardy said.

For the University, key areas of cost reduction are in personnel, equipment purchases and travel.

The Department of Advertising will have to halt its search for two replacements in its faculty after being without a full faculty for almost five years.

“We have to figure out how we can teach the courses we want to teach without this faculty,” said Janet Slater, department head.

As the department plans its fall 2009 courses, the focus is on offering enough classes to allow students to meet their major requirements and ensuring that they are receiving a quality education.

“We’re seeing how we can meet our teaching needs with the funding and resources we need,” she said.

The entire University is trying to maintain its academic excellence, Hardy added.

“No single group in the University community bears the brunt of this situation,” he said. “The sacrifices are being shared among all groups.”