Board of Trustees Budget Committee makes recommendations for 2016 operating budget and building renovations

By Maggie Sullivan

Recommendations for the fiscal year 2016 operating budget

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal to cut 31.5 percent of state appropriations to the University is still on the table but the University’s operating budget is a little closer to being finalized.

The Board of Trustees Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities Committee met Monday and decided it will recommend maintaining the University’s current operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2016 at the May 7 Board of Trustees meeting.

“We really don’t know how the budget process will go,” said Edward McMillan, the committee and Board chairman. “We hope that it will get resolved by the end of May, but we’re not sure that’s going to happen.”

The Board of Trustees requires the University to submit a preliminary operating budget before the start of the new fiscal year, which begins July 1st, even though state appropriations for the University have not been determined.

The University’s total operating budget for fiscal year 2015 was $5.6 billion, according to the Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Operating Budget Executive Summary.

The committee will recommend maintaining the same budget until state appropriations are finalized and revisit it when more budget information is available.

Walter Knorr, vice president and chief financial officer, said this approach is consistent with past years when state appropriations were not yet finalized.

“The approach that Walter Knorr is proposing is the responsible approach at this point,” McMillan said.

Knorr said he hopes there will be a final budget to go to the Board of Trustees for approval by their September meeting.

Recommendations for University projects

The University Board of Trustees Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities committee recommended increasing the budget for renovations of the Everitt Laboratory Monday.

“The project goal is to provide the best experience in interdisciplinary biomedical engineering at graduate and undergraduate levels,” said Geoffrey Lisle, representative for BSA Life Structures, the company completing the renovations.

The original budget for the laboratory renovation, which was approved by the Board of Trustees in March 2014, was $50 million. However, Lisle said the project requires a $5 million budget increase to fulfill its mission.

The renovation will have a strong focus on classroom spaces with “flexible” layouts, Lisle said. He said he hopes the new classrooms will foster an active learning environment, but can also accommodate a traditional learning style, depending on what the professor chooses.

“This really is a combined graduate and undergraduate education for the future,” Lisle said.

He said the project should be completed by June 2018.

The Committee also recommended naming the University’s newest residence hall Wassaja Hall. If approved, the hall, which will begin housing students in Fall 2016, would be named in honor of Carlos Montezuma, the first Native American student to graduate from the University.

Wassaja, Montezuma’s birth name, means, “to beckon” in his native language, said Edward McMillan, chair of the committee and Board of Trustees.

McMillan said Chancellor Phyllis Wise and her auxiliaries are supportive of the name, and the recommendation goes along with the administration’s plans to name more buildings after iconic alumni.

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