Fiscal trouble put strain on hiring process

At their Nov. 12 meeting in Springfield, the Univeristy’s Board of Trustees approved 30 new faculty appointments, many of whom began instruction at the Urbana campus at the beginning of this semester.

But while the University has not enacted a formal hiring freeze to curtail budget issues, officials said the number of hires for next year will likely be significantly reduced.

Michele Thompson, Board of Trustees secretary, said hiring new faculty members is a process that usually occurs a year in advance. Each department recruits new recommendations a year before they can begin instruction. They are then approved by the provost, president and Board of Trustees, Thompson said. As a result of the state’s fiscal crisis, cost-cutting measures will likely limit the amount of faculty recommendations for next year.

“There is a kind of ‘hiring caution,’ meaning that in this time of financial difficulty for the state and University, we are trying to be as careful with spending as we can,” said Tom Hardy, University spokesman. “Every thought about a new hire, whether or not it will fill a vacancy, ought to be seriously considered and needs approval from higher authority before moving forward.”

The state of Illinois has almost $4 billion in unpaid bills, with a shortfall of up to 40 percent between revenues and projected costs for FY 2011. The University has been in the process of planning FY 2011 budget operations since the beginning of FY 2010. Almost 29 percent of the University’s budget is dependent on state funding, 16 to 17 percent of which is directly appropriated from the state, said Randy Kangas, associate vice president for planning and budgeting.

“The impact of this on the University isn’t entirely clear, but the state has a tremendous fiscal problem,” Kangas said. “We’re trying to caution hiring, and tell departments to slow down whatever spending they can slow down.”

Kangas said that the decreased economic status of many Illinois citizens has impacted public institutions statewide. An 11 percent unemployment rate has made a decrease in state income tax revenue, and low consumption has resulted in a decrease in sales tax revenue.

“Most public entities, including universities statewide are having the same financial issues at the moment,” Kangas said.

Hardy said the University plans on spending six percent less in FY 2011, cutting discretionary costs and enacting the “hiring caution.”

“There’s always a challenging balancing act in terms of making sure that you have people and resources to preserve and enhance level of quality of academic enterprise,” Hardy said. “But we want to maintain the highest level of quality and integrity of what we do but within the realities of a difficult financial situation.”